-by Ellis Anderson
Bay St. Louis is a winner. The town is repeatedly tapped as “One of the Best Small Beach Towns in the Country” or one of the best coastal places to live by national publications. Attributes that garner the numerous accolades include its artsy ambiance, the harbor, the restaurants, peaceful beaches and its historic architecture.
Yet, for all the Bay offers, until recently, many residents and visitors believed one key amenity was missing: a wine bar with an intimate atmosphere, a place where conversation was king.
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Massive wood beams overhead give the interior of The Loft a timeless look, while wood floors and lots of large windows exude warmth and welcome. The floor plan with two separate entrances allows the event space to be partitioned off from the wine bar. If a scheduled event is large enough, the bar can be included for the duration.
The bar itself offers a changing menu of hand-crafted cocktails, beer and wines – red, white, rosé and sparkling. Charcuterie plates are available for sharing and nibbling. Wine barrel tables dot the room around the large island bar. Soft lighting and candlelight invite guests to linger and visit with friends or stretch out a romantic interlude.
The event space, which can handle anywhere from a dozen to 125 guests, is already hosting a variety of events – birthdays, meetings, weddings, reunions, private brunches and showers (to book, click here). Sabine and Andreé work with a preferred caterer, but event hosts are welcome to use their own licensed caterer as well.
The two women have had years of experience working together, although from different angles of the hospitality industry. Sabine has decades of event planning in New Orleans, and since she's married to professional saxophonist Jimmy Bellew, she's got in-depth knowledge of the entertainment end of things.
Andreé is a professional vocalist who has performed in the city’s nightclubs and for weddings/events for more than 20 years – frequently in bands that also featured Jimmy. Pandemic interruptions in both women’s busy careers brought about their moves to Bay St. Louis – and the creation of The Loft.
Andreé was the first to relocate from New Orleans, following her daughter, Juliet Liuzza, also a vocalist. Sabine and her husband made the move several months later at the urging of their teenaged son who had visited.
“My son came over to Bay St. Louis last summer  to help a good friend and New Orleans neighbor with her move to Bay,” says Sabine. “He fell in love with the town, came home and said he wanted to move too. He’s a junior in high school, so we were completely surprised – we couldn’t believe it.”
Sabine and husband Jimmy used to day-trip to the Bay often and always enjoyed it, so after much consideration, sold their New Orleans house and made the leap.
Meanwhile, Andreé was reestablishing her musicial career on the coast. One night last August, she was performing at Bodega (111 Court Street), when Sabine and Jimmy came to listen. After the gig, the two women talked over long-held dreams.
It turned out that both had always wanted to open an upscale wine bar. They discussed it over lunch later in the week and concept of The Loft was off and running.
More kismet came into play. Once they identified the perfect location The French Settlement, it turned out that the building’s owner, Jim MacPhaille, was an old friend of Andreé’s – in fact, she’d even sung at his wedding. MacPhaille supported the idea and put them in touch with the rental company.
“We signed the lease on September 8 and opened the doors for business on November 8, exactly two months later to the day,” says Sabine.
The women credit their partners with making the transformation of the raw space to an intimate bar happen so quickly. Jimmy Bellew and Andreé’s fiancé, Will Cullen, worked around the clock to help get The Loft open in time for holiday gatherings. The timing was perfect. They’ve already hosted several events, have others on the books and are fielding inquiries daily.
The wine bar has already drawn a group of regular patrons, who appreciate the convivial atmosphere. In addition to becoming a popular date night hideaway, Sabine reports that some women have left their husbands watching football games in other local establishments to enjoy some quiet time with friends.
“It’s a place I could go with my girlfriends and buy a bottle of wine,” says Andrée. “Cozy and intimate and conversation-friendly. And the balcony takes your breath away. You can sit out there with a glass of wine and life couldn’t be better.”
What's ahead? Look for some "imaginative, unique spins on our charcuterie boards," says Andree. And both Andrée and her daughter, Juliet Liuzza, will be performing on occasion at The Loft. Expect other exceptional musical guests in the future.
108 South Beach Blvd.
Bay St. Louis
Monday-Tuesday - closed
Wednesday - 4-10pm
Sunday - 12-8pm
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