By Cody Worsham
Aaron Saulnier’s formula for success is simple.
“Stick with what works,” he says, typing away quickly but calmly on his computer in the back office of Bogie’s Bar, where he has worked since 1998.
Saulnier, better known around these parts as Mugsy, is busy this Monday morning, an uncommon occurrence in most bars. But Bogie’s isn’t most bars, and for evidence of that fact, look no further than what this week marks and what has Mugsy sorting out UPS orders at 11 a.m. on a Monday.
Bogie’s is turning 20.
“It’s a big deal,” Mugsy says. “You only turn 20 once.”
What works for Bogie’s, Mugsy says, is “treating customers with respect and catering to what they want.”
“With downtown coming on in recent years, that takes customers and crowds, but we’re still here,” he says. “Good drink specials, good customers, and loyal employees makes it work.”
Mugsy has been a part of 16 of those 20 years, starting as a doorman before ascending the ranks to bartender, manager, and, since 2004, owner.
“When I started, I thought I’d be in and out the door in four or five years,” he laughs. “But I got wrapped into it, and didn’t leave.”
As anyone in the industry could testify, keeping an establishment open for 20 years is no small task. Mugsy’s challenges range from increased competition to, quite frankly, increased academic standards at LSU, which see students pass on drinks at the bar for books in the library.
“The need to keep grades up for TOPS hurts bars more than it helps,” he says. “Kids don’t go out as much. Regulars used to come in four or five nights a week. Now, regulars come in twice a week.”
But Bogie’s regulars are dedicated. The bar offers a Black Card perfect for its most loyal patrons, allowing them front of the line access every night and access to exclusive drink specials.
The bar has also become a Greek mainstay, a rite of passage at LSU that’s been a huge part of two decades of success. Being “the Greek bar” is a badge of honor for Mugsy.
“It’s a niche, but it works for us,” he says through cigarette smoke rising above a Bogie’s visor. “With so much turnaround in the bar industry, it shows what we do is special and it does work.”
To celebrate the big two-zero, Bogie’s is celebrating all week long with drink specials. The highlights of the week are Thursday’s EDM show – featuring Heroes X Villains and Kennedy Jones, with free drinks from 7 to 9, 20,000 Jello shots, and live painting from local artist Jacob Zumo – and Friday’s country show featuring Bob Browning Live and the Jason Miller Band performing in the parking lot.
The musical selection fits the story of the bar, Mugsy says.
“When we first started, it was all Phish and country music,” he says. “Now, it’s rap and electronic dance music – and still a little country. It’s crazy how things change. Our sound system used to be 250 CDs on a carousel. It’s a little bit easier than that now.”
Though the tunes – and their delivery – may have modernized with the times, Bogie’s is still true to its roots. The same thing that has kept Mugsy at Bogie’s for all these years is the same thing that has kept Bogie’s in Baton Rouge.
“People have a good time here,” he says. “There aren’t many jobs that feel like a party.”