Wesley Schmidt, owner of Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, dies at 68
By Olivia Prentzel, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Updated Apr 14, 9:21 AM; Posted Apr 13, 2019
Wesley Schmidt was the grand marshal of the Storyville Stompers. In this file photo from April 2003, Schmidt leads the marching band around Jackson Square as the opening act of the final day of the French Quarter Festival.
Wesley Schmidt, owner of Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, grand marshal of Storyville Stompers and a founder of MOMS Ball, died Friday (April 12) from lung cancer at his Mid-City home, friends said. He was 68.
A New Orleans native, Mr. Schmidt spent three decades at Snug Harbor, a cornerstone to the city’s jazz scene and anchor to Frenchmen Street. He started at the club as an assistant manager and was promoted to manager. In 2007, he became the club’s owner after the death of former owner George Brumat.
“He loved that place,” said Mr. Schmidt’s friend Woody Penouilh. “He was Snug Harbor to me.”
Before Snug Harbor, Mr. Schmidt was a manager at The Dream Palace, which is now Blue Nile.
In the 1970s, Mr. Schmidt became a manager of Luigi’s Italian Restaurant on Elysian Fields Avenue, near the University of New Orleans. It was at Luigi’s that Mr. Schmidt booked the pre-Radiators group, The Rhapsodizers, including guitarist Clark Vreeland, to play every Wednesday night.
Mr. Schmidt’s public persona was shaped by his role as grand marshal of the Storyville Stompers, a marching band inspired by the Olympia Brass Band, and as one of the founders of MOMS ball, a semi-private, bohemian costume party held every Saturday before Mardi Gras. Behind his public persona, friends said Mr. Schmidt was a relatively private person.
Penouilh, a tuba player with the Storyville Stompers, described Mr. Schmidt as an audiophile who would seek out a certain type of turntable on which he’d play his eclectic selection of music. Mr. Schmidt was a generous person, Penouilh said, who was “unique and true and real."
Jay Christman, general manger of Snug Harbor, said Mr. Schmidt played a large role in continuing the club’s legacy and its mission to jazz. The club, which provides music seven nights a week, is only closed three nights a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mardi Gras. It closed Friday night in honor of Mr. Schmidt’s passing.
Every Thanksgiving, Mr. Schmidt would have an open house, inviting anyone he knew without family in town to share dinner at his home, Christman said.
“He celebrated all aspects of what we think of community in the city here,” Christman said. “Music was a primary source of everything we do and he did what ever he could to promote that.”
Mr. Schmidt is survived by his wife. Funeral arrangements are unknown.
Staff reporter Doug MacCash contributed to this story.