Montanna Mercer’s own mom was the inspiration behind Mother’s Lounge, downtown’s vibrant LGBTQ+ space

During her senior year in college, Montanna Mercer knew she was about to torpedo her plans to go into clinical psychology. She was working as a manager at Bengal Tap Room downtown, and the pull to remain in the hospitality industry was strong.

“I think I realized, more than anything, that I enjoyed creating experiences for people,” Mercer says. “I had been working in hospitality in some capacity since age 15.”

Mercer, now 30, and her best friend and business partner, Trent Shepherd, are the founders of Mother’s Lounge on Third Street, a meticulously designed queer space that opened last summer. The spot has a clear mission: to welcome the LGBTQ+ community with open arms and vibrant trappings. Its origin story dates back to an ordinary night a few years ago when Mercer and Shepherd were out at Register Bar, the concept that previously occupied the Mother’s space.

“We were dancing and singing and having fun, and we just felt so much love,” Mercer recalls. “And in that moment, we were like, ‘What do we need to do to make more people feel this way?’”

Register Bar’s closure after the pandemic seemed like a sign. The two friends got serious about developing a trendy LGBTQ+ concept the likes of which the Capital Region hadn’t seen.

The business partners envisioned an inviting, spangled vibe with the concept of “mother” as the central theme, signaling drag culture references, and foremost, Mercer’s own mother, Tina. “She and I are very close,” Mercer says.

In fact, the team found their first design inspiration for the bar in a starlet-esque photograph of Tina taken in the ‘80s. Mercer had sketched a drawing of the photo for Tiek Byday, the firm responsible for creating Mother’s lauded look, which earned the bar national attention from ELLE Decor in September.

Nearly a year after opening, business is great, Mercer says. Mother’s draws consistent crowds with drag shows, its glammy setting, expanded food menu and seasonal cocktail program.

Tina sometimes even makes an appearance.

“One night she was in here, and someone came up to her and said, ‘The way that you loved your daughter allowed her to create this space for people like us,’” Mercer says. “I get choked up saying it.”

“We just knew Baton Rouge was ready for something like this. It’s something we wanted to give the community.”


This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of 225 magazine.