Jack’s Place in Port Allen celebrates 100 years | “It’s not the building, it’s the people.”

PORT ALLEN – There’s an undeniable charm about a small town that just brings people together. It’s the people, the community and the shared feeling of a village.

In Port Allen, there’s a special place that epitomizes this sentiment: Jack’s Place.

Celebrating its centennial this weekend, Jack’s Place holds a significant place in the hearts of locals. Jerry Saia, the third-generation owner, recounts his family’s journey from Sicily by way of Houma and Labadieville in 1919.  Their family had many businesses in the area. His grandfather, the bar’s namesake, opened Jack’s Bar when he was about 19 years old.

If the walls of Jack’s Place could talk, you’d hear stories going back to Prohibition, World War II, the Great Depression and many more events both large and small, that have spanned the past century.

However, these historic walls haven’t always stood on Court Street.

“The building, as it is today, used to be on the other side of the levee. Around the 1920s, the Army Corps of Engineers wanted to build the levees up. So properties that were on the other side of the levees, they gave them an opportunity to move their buildings to not have them get lost to the river,” Saia says.

The relocation of Jack’s Bar in the 1920s was no easy feat. With no modern transportation, the building was moved the old fashioned way.

“They got horses, mules, and logs and loaded the building up on those logs and they rolled it all the way down Court Street from the existing place on the other side of the levee.”

Since then, Jack’s Place has remained a steady pillar of the community. In its early years, Grandpa Jack ran a restaurant and a shoe shine business out of the bar. Folks would come in, get their shoes shined and enjoy a nice drink before heading over the river. 

In the 1940s, a fire tore through Jack’s Bar causing them to close down the restaurant. It didn’t stop a very business savvy, Jack. The bar was rebuilt with a new pool hall that remains there today.

“I had a very fortunate childhood growing up here. I was a rack boy at the age of 6. I used to shoot pool, and I’d carry around a wooden coke case to stand on so I could see,” Saia says. “This is a building. But Jack’s place has been in the community for years. Generations upon generations come through here and cut their teeth.”

Saia tells us his “flamboyant and charismatic” grandfather was never focused on making money but rather building a place for the community.  The kind of place where everyone knows your name. Saia has certainly been intentional with carrying on that vision.  He emphatically welcomes nearly everyone that comes in by name. 

“This is the way Jack’s survived. These people. It’s not the building, it’s the people.”

As Jack’s Place celebrates a century of existence, Saia looks forward to continuing its legacy of serving the community for many more years to come.

“I just thank all the people that have supported Jack. Grandpa used to say, ‘It runs itself.’ People come to reminisce about good times. It’s about the people.”

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