Justin McQuiston says bars get a bad rap. “Look, I get it. If you’re up until 2 am maybe you’re up to no good, but here it’s different. The majority of what’s happening is just people visiting. My customers are getting together with their friends or co-workers and having a couple drinks.”
McQuiston owns three bars located right next to each other on Ryan Street: Pappy’s Sports Pub, Pappy’s Bar and Gayle’s Shot Bar. Pappy’s is well-known in the community — a business that’s been in McQuiston’s family for three generations. “My grandparents owned Pappy’s when it was Pappy’s Curb Market,” he says.
His grandfather purchased the market in 1953 when Ryan Street was still a cattle trail made of gravel. In 1994 McQuiston’s parents purchased the market and two years later separated the building into two. One building remained the market and the other was a deli serving po’ boys, burgers and gumbo.
McQuiston purchased Pappy’s from his parents in 2015 and renovated the deli. “I’ve always had the goal of owning the entire strip at the corner of Ryan and 18th,” he says.
In 2020 when Gayle’s Hardware was up for sale, he saw his opportunity and took it. Right before Hurricane Laura hit the area, McQuiston started renovations on Gayle’s. It’s a good thing he did, since the hurricane completely ripped the roof off Pappy’s. The building was structurally OK, but everything inside was a total loss.
In a common scenario, the insurance company underpaid, and McQuiston was in for a fight. In the meantime, he devoted all of his attention to finishing the renovations at Gayle’s. His vision was an industrial whiskey lounge.
“I kept the name Gayle’s because people in our community love nostalgia,” he says. “The ‘shot’ part comes, obviously, from shots of alcohol, but also because it’s a shotgun building, and I shoot sporting clays competitively.”
Gayle’s opened in July, 2021. Pappy’s opened in early November of this year after a two-year-long fight with the insurance company.
A few things have changed. Smoking is no longer allowed inside, and there’s no food being served. “When you have a place that’s been shut down for almost four years, a lot happens in your life and in the lives of your customers. People thought Pappy’s would open back up and be exactly the same, but it’s completely new.”
He says each bar has its own culture. Pappy’s Sports Pub is the building right on the corner of 18th street. It’s a true sports pub with seven big-screen TVs, 30 beers on draft and 100 bottled beer options. Pappy’s Bar, the bar in the middle, sometimes hosts a DJ and has velvet couches and a more upscale vibe.
McQuiston says he envisioned his customers bar hopping all within one spot. “I like to move around — walk around the patio, shoot pool, play darts. With the way things are set up now, that’s exactly what happens.” All three bars share a 4,000-square-foot patio with games like cornhole and Connect Four. On Fridays and Saturdays, food trucks park at the bars.
Many businesses weren’t able to come back after the blows they were dealt in 2020. McQuiston attributes his success to, in a word, “Perseverance. It might be corny to say, but after three years of not making money I just keep pushing. I kept up the licenses and permits. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. So, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right.
“And I can’t thank the Lake Charles community enough for sticking with me. It felt like it took forever to open back up after the hurricane, like it was never going to happen, but we’re back. I hope everyone will come by and see us.”