Kohlman’s Tavern: Historic Algiers Black Business Hub

Kohlman’s Tavern, once located at 414 Homer Street in Algiers, was operated by Mr. Louis Kohlman. His son, Freddie Kohlman, the world-renowned jazz drummer, studied drums in the neighborhood with the legendary Professor Manuel Manetta, moved to Chicago where he built his reputation, and returned home in the 1950s to work regularly on Bourbon Street and later at Preservation Hall. The tavern was a gathering place, restaurant, beer garden, and, as seen in one of the photographs, the home base for Mr. Kohlman’s taxi cab company.

The Honorable Edwin A. Lombard, judge on the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth Circuit, grew up as best friends with Freddie’s son, who they called “Little Louis.” Judge Lombard recalled the elder Kohlman:

“He was a great businessman. He had a fleet of cabs that he was leasing out. He had real estate. . . I’m sure he had about 25 or 30 rental units, houses, rowhouses that he had. One of the sisters Bert, Betha Kohlman, we used to call her, she lived behind the club. She was the lady who cooked for the club, the catfish and potato salad and stuff . . . They had some music, but it was a beer garden, a lot of fund raisers. I mean church people would give suppers and stuff in there. They used to call it the beer garden, so I’m not sure they had hard liquor. It was Kohlman’s Beer Garden, Club 414, which was their address. Like I said, on weekends they served food and that was it . . . You went to Kohlman’s; it was well lit; it wasn’t a typical barroom with the blues honkytonk kind of stuff like that. Mr. Kohlman always kept it like a restaurant kind of place.” Judge Lombard further explains: “If you look at that picture of the club, next to it you see a building, that was a supermarket, that was our supermarket, The Bells supermarket at that point. So, Kohlman was right there, and a lot of his business had to do with people who couldn’t walk home with their groceries.”

As Hogan Jazz Archive Associate Curator Lynn Abbot points out in Jazz Archivist, the photo is a “sobering reminder that segregation in the Jim Crow South tainted every aspect of life; even separate cab services were necessary for African Americans wishing to travel safely through the city.” Judge Lombard recalls those years: “They got organized. I don’t know whether it was integration or what. Before, when you got off the Algiers ferry, the white cab stand was directly across the street, and the black cab stand was right on that side where you walk down by the levee. And then at some point, they formed an association with Mr. Taylor and all the black cab drivers, and they started Algiers Cab Company with one phone number. Before, everybody was independent. And before Kohlman died, they had put together this group, and they all had the same color. It was powder blue and white. Because Kohlman’s cabs were black, and most of Mr. Taylor’s cabs were black. Wilson’s cabs were a certain color. Mr. Kohlman had the majority of the cabs.”

Today, 414 Homer Street is a private residence, but for many years, it was a hub for a thriving African American business community on the West Bank.



414 Homer Street, Algiers LA