First Look: Dead Poet aims to transcend the college bar vibe near LSU

It was Shady’s, then it was Tops, then The Levee and The Bandit. The spot nestled along East Boyd Drive near LSU has been home to a multitude of bars and concepts—but none that resulted in long-lasting success.

Hoping to change that is new tenant Dead Poet, which opens to the public Thursday, Jan. 17. Already, the bar seems to be doing things a little differently.

Upon first glance, Dead Poet easily exceeds expectations of a college bar. Beautifully painted rainbow murals, plush furniture and plenty of seating and space replace bleak walls and an empty floor plan that graced the space months prior. A huge bar with lots of lighting and beverage menus span across the side of the room, inviting customers to sit and enjoy the space surrounding them.

Christian Grimaldo, bar manager at Dead Poet, says the unique look helps define the bar’s mission—to break the mold of a “college bar” altogether.

“I think that people have a desire for something more in this area, and we wanted to provide that,” Grimaldo says. “It was frustrating for me when I went to visit other SEC schools because, yeah, there were ‘divey’ bars, but there was also always at least one nice bar that you could bring your parents to or get a nice cocktail without having to worry about getting your shoes dirty. I always felt Baton Rouge deserved something like that, too.”

The bar took six months of heavy construction to create, and many hours of the Dead Poet team thinking back to their own college bar experiences. These flashbacks, as operating partner Remi DeMatteo explains, ultimately led to the theme of the bar: famous artists who have passed.

“We were shown the space, and we knew we wanted to do something extraordinary for the LSU student body and the city as a whole,” DeMatteo says. “The ‘dead poet’ theme came about because we knew we wanted to tie in school and academics without being overtly LSU. So we started talking about what we studied in school, which led us to English and poetry, which eventually led to this open theme of poets, artists, writers and musicians who have died.”

Creating an extraordinary space involved making a few changes to the typical college bar format. Beyond its décor, Dead Poet ditched the traditional college bar standing-room-only vibe with loads of seating options to relax and enjoy the night. The bar also offers an expansive drink menu with 34 beers on tap, 6 wines on tap, 2 frozen beverages and a full selection of cocktail options. They also provide an explanative beverage menu for customers who might not be yet accustomed to classic cocktails.

For its opening, Dead Poet is also serving up a specialty drink: a frozen Irish Coffee. Rich, creamy and sprinkled with fresh coffee grounds, it solidifies the idea that the bar isn’t just whipping up basic drinks you can find anywhere else.

The Dead Poet team also has live music in mind, which they plan to bring in multiple times a week. While DeMatteo says they are currently focusing on local bands, they are hoping to schedule larger gigs soon.

DeMatteo says he is excited for people to come and see the space and is confident it will be a hit with both college students and local residents. In fact, he is so confident he is already working on a second project to complement the bar—a late-night cravings restaurant right next door. Though specific details have not been hammered out quite yet, DeMatteo says the restaurant will focus on fried breakfast foods and sandwiches and is expected to open sometime in April.

With an inviting interior, a large selection of drinks and plans for more expansion on the horizon, Dead Poet seems on track to distinguish itself as a not-so-college-bar college bar.

Dead Poet is at 623 E. Boyd Drive. Its hours are Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-2 a.m., Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m., and Sunday 5 p.m.-midnight.