Bartender spotlight: Let her make you a Vegas bomb

Kim Chiasson, a 23-year-old bartender at Mahony’s Irish Pub and Downtown Balcony in downtown Houma, said she likes serving Vegas bombs.

Some days, Kim Chiasson mixes drinks at a relaxing Irish pub.

Other days, she pours shots at a rocking music club.

The only thing that separates the two is a flight of stairs.

Housed in Houma’s second-oldest building, Downtown Balcony and Mahony’s Irish Pub share a single owner and six employees. However, their clienteles are very dissimilar.

“The crowds are surprisingly different,” said the 23-year-old Chiasson. “Downstairs is kind of more chilled out, a little older crowd, just listen to the jukebox. Upstairs is more of the younger, nightlife crowd, dance music, fast-paced.”

Owner Mark Bonvillain said it was easier and better from a business to run each as two separate companies than try to combine them into a single establishment.

“We don’t have an entrance that goes from one to the other, so it didn’t make sense,” he explained. “Plus, with two liquor licenses, two separate gambling licenses, we can have two sets of three video poker machines in each bar.”

Mahony’s, located on the ground level of 7834 Main St., Houma, has a bucolic, old-world feel with its brass beer taps and oak bar. While it offers 120 brands of beer, Guinness on tap is by far the most popular among patrons.

Some popular mixed drinks Chiasson currently serves up are O-bombs (orange-flavored vodka, orange juice and Red Bull), Vegas Bombs (Crown Royal, peach Schnapps and Red Bull), and Dragon Berry (strawberry-flavored rum, cranberry and simple syrup).

Downtown Balcony, located upstairs, offers live music Wednesdays to Saturdays. Acoustic sets are played Wednesdays, Thursdays and during Happy Hour (6-9 p.m.) on Fridays. A full band plays from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, usually classic rock, ‘80s rock and contemporary music.

“We try to have something that appeals to everybody,” Bonvillain said. “It seems like every time we have an ‘80s rock band, sing-a-long type music, the crowds really enjoy that.”

To experience Downtown Balcony and Mahony’s at their liveliest, you need to be there during Carnival and St. Patrick Day.

Mardi Gras is always the busiest time of the year for both bars, but with its outdoor terrace, Downtown Balcony can feel like New Orleans’ French Quarter.

“It’s fun. It’s crazy. You have to watch for beads on the balcony or you’re going to get knocked out,” Chiasson said. “It’s a wild scene, and I think everybody should experience it.”

Being the only Irish pub in town, Mahony’s is usually packed on March 17. Bonvillain estimated that as many as 400-500 people have shown up for St. Patrick’s Day.

“We do free food and the green beer,” he said. “And my birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, which always is cause for celebration.”

Chiasson, a 2006 H.L Bourgeois High School graduate, worked for Cashio’s Catering in Thibodaux before coming to Downtown Balcony/Mahony’s.

Bonvillain, a 1995 Vandebilt Catholic graduate, has always worked in the service industry. He was a bartender throughout college at LSU and Nicholls State University, managed Aficionados for about three years and managed the bar for the previous owner before buying it.

“For as long as I was a bartender, I always said I would never own a bar,” Bonvillain confessed. “And then the right opportunity presented itself.”

Bonvillain and business partner, Gary Brown, purchased the building in 2006. They opened Downtown Balcony in October 2006 and Mahony’s in June 2007. Since then Bonvillain has become sole proprietor of both establishments.

He has big plans for expansion and renovation. He bought the former barbershop adjacent to Mahony’s and added foosball tables, which to the owner’s shock has been a huge hit with customers.

The major overhaul will come if a grant application, designated for rehabilitating historic buildings, is approved.

“I want to put the bar in Downtown Balcony back the way it was when it first opened.” Bonvillain said. “I want to do the full remodel on the inside, the stairs, the balcony and paint the outside of the building. Dress it up and make it look real nice.”

Whether you are looking to kick back with a cold one or kick your heels up, the staff of Downtown Balcony and Mahony’s just wants everybody to have a good time.

“We have a big family here with all the employees,” Chiasson said. “That brings people in because our vibe is so inviting and warm. Every night is fun here.

Source: Keyon K. Jeff, houmatoday.com

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