Bar Louie was Gemmayzeh’s first bar, and now that the district has become Beirut’s hottest night scene, the friendly, chilled-out live music venue has lost out a little to the nearby competition. Located on Rue Gouraud in Gemmayzeh, the bar is unassuming, red-lit, and on this particular Thursday night, sparsely populated. All the same, the few people hanging out on the bar stools or snatching up tables are in it for the long haul, listening to the milk chocolaty voice of Allan Seif (Bar Louie’s resident band for the summer) and watching the antics of his keyboardist.
Lebanon’s night life is varied; in only three days, you can sweep through the glitz and glam of the outdoor Pier 7 with its slightly random 1 am raffle and waterfall walls. In Gemmayzeh, Django’s cozy (Tabasco-Mohandiseen-like) atmosphere is the perfect location for a gathering of close friends – in fact, it is likely the bartender will join in your conversation with his strong opinions while he whips you up a practically lethal Long Island Iced Tea. Pass through Hamra’s Barometer, a place rumored to gather leftists and writers more than likely due to its killer sojouk (sausages in pomegranate syrup) and absolutely addictive moutabbel (similar to baba ghanoush).
Bar Louie is not Beirut’s only live music hub – the DRM (Democratic Republic of Music) in Hamra has multi-tiered seating for a better view and features local bands like Lazy Lung who rock the crowd into repeating choruses like “Aye Aye Pirate!”
Also when in Beirut, remember to try Lebanese beer – whether the classic Almaza or the exponentially better LB.
The spirit in the streets of Beirut by night is almost whimsical – bar by bar, moods change and chatter topics include local gossip, art, politics, and the parallel lives we all lead in our respective countries. When I go back to Beirut, I'll stop in at Bar Louie – that Thursday, it took all we could not to spark up our lighters to Seif’s cover of John Lennon’s "Imagine."