Siberia has gone south to Brazil. The new owners of the St. Claude Avenue bar, restaurant and music venue have renamed it Carnaval Lounge.
“We want it to be a festive, welcoming place for everybody,” co-owner Jennifer Johnson said. “We think Carnaval Lounge conveys that a bit more than Siberia.”
Carnaval Lounge’s offerings include Brazilian cuisine and beer, South American wine and Brazil’s national cocktail, caipirinha. An eclectic schedule of entertainment is scheduled for the grand opening, Labor Day Weekend, August 30-September 2.
Two married couples—Jennifer and Matt Johnson and Lisa and Joann Guidos—bought Siberia in May. Joann Guidos owns Kajun’s Pub, a longtime favorite neighborhood bar in the same 2200 block of St. Claude. Since the purchase, the owners have painted the building’s exterior and interior bright purple and renovated the interior and the bathrooms. Because Siberia’s restaurant closed before the purchase, Jennifer Johnson said, “We knew we were going to have to launch a new kitchen concept. We’re thrilled with the change to Brazilian food.”
Chef Gustavo Naar, who grew up in Brazil and on the Northshore, inspired the Carnaval Lounge theme, Johnson said. “The focus is music and the food and drinks of New Orleans and points south.”
As for music, Johnson said, “it won’t be terribly different from what it’s been recently. Over the past few years, it’s become eclectic. Singer-songwriter nights, piano night and those sorts of things—we want to continue that.”
Johnson also anticipates early evenings at Carnaval Lounge will feature music suitable for dining and conversation. “You’re not talking over the musicians and they’re not playing over you,” she said. “And we want to continue the tradition of having really good rock shows—doors at nine, shows at ten kind of situation.”
Much of the Siberia staff, including bar manager Jack Long, stayed on after the sale, Johnson added. “Everybody who came with the place was given an opportunity to stay. We didn’t want to shake the Etch-a-Sketch for no reason. They have institutional knowledge that we don’t have.”
The Johnsons live within walking distance of Carnaval Lounge. Jennifer Johnson’s day job is LJR Custom Strategies, a market research and strategic consulting company. Her husband practices law. They’re pleased that the club and restaurant will remain locally-owned.
“There’s a lot of change happening on St. Claude Avenue,” Jennifer Johnson said. “If someone had bought Siberia and turned it into a fancy restaurant or into a high-end clothing store—something very different—a lot of people would have been upset. I know there are folks who don’t want Siberia to be anything but Siberia, but the fact that it’s staying true to what it provided to the neighborhood makes me very happy.”
Former Siberia co-owner Daphne Loney will devote herself to making art and teaching at Delgado Community College. “I loved my time at Siberia,” she said. “I wish the new owners the best and know they will have an amazing business.”
The new Carnaval Lounge is located at 2227 St. Claude Avenue.