The Country Club in New Orleans is a sight to behold. Located in the burgeoning, hipster neighborhood of Bywater, in an unassuming home with an American flag out front, the clothing-optional, gay/straight pool club looks like any other handsome house on the block, until you get inside.
My first and only time at The Country Club was in May; I had only heard about this infamous place until then. All I knew was that it was a pool club that attracted a diverse,often-naked clientele of both men and women. After experiencing The Country Club firsthand, my curiosity was piqued. I learned the house that The Country Club occupies was built in 1884 and has since been passed down from owner to owner. The stately home was even used as the New Orleans Taxi Cab Service dispatch center before three gay men snapped it up in the 1970s, built a pool and bar, and opened to the public (but mostly the gay public). All that grandeur was put on the backburner when I walked in the front door and smelled chlorine wafting in from the back door. Quickly, I grew excited. What gay man doesn’t get a thrill seeing naked men, gay and straight, strolling around a pool?
Now, you should know, I am a simple boy raised in a very small and rural town in north Florida, just 15 minutes south of Alabama. I was raised Catholic and my family eventually transitioned to the Mormon faith. I have since become a non-practicing Mormon due to my insistence on being an out gay man and living as I see fit. And no, I haven’t been excommunicated despite my best efforts.
A place like The Country Club, filled with gays and straights frolicking around naked, had very negative connotations to a religious kid like me — had I been exposed to it at 18, I would have died from shock and excitement. But when I actually walked in the door this spring, the atmosphere at The Country Club was free-spirited and easy-going; not like a dank, intimidating sex club. I went with a guy I was seeing at the time who swears by the place. As we stepped outside to the pool area, I found myself surprised I had actually made my way there after all these years hearing about it.
We arrived early — around 11 in the morning — so the pool was quiet and we easily found chairs. The pool area is spectacular: if the owner and designer were looking to create a tropical oasis in the center of a city, they succeeded. Trees and shrubs tower over the fence, effectively blocking God himself from looking at the guests. Two bars service The Country Club; one inside and another cabana-style bar by the pool. A hot tub is tucked away in the far corner with foliage blocking the hot tub from the rest of the pool space.
As the day progressed and the alcohol flowed, more and more people filled the space. The crowd is very diverse; you have men, women, gay and straight and everybody in-between simply lounging around the pool, most naked. I have never in my life seen so much genitalia. Though, I am happy to report this is the place to be if you want to see the well-hung population of New Orleans. In the row of chairs behind me, a group of well-defined men set up shop. Each threw a towel down on their chair and without a moment’s thought, they all dropped their pants to their ankles. I was pleasantly surprised to see the men all sporting knee-knockers.
The club’s rules banning unnecessary touching are strictly enforced, and understandable if you ask me. One of my friends was once asked to leave after he and another boy became ‘friendly’ in the pool area. He has since been allowed back and assures everyone he won’t be caught in that kind of position again. When a place offers so much freedom, you need rules to keep order — it only takes a few drinks before an orgy ensues in these situations. I saw at least three people kicked out of the pool area for different offenses, like jumping into the pool and becoming too drunk.
Now, I was there on a Monday when there was no festival taking place in the city; I would assume Southern Decadence brings its own list of concerns for patrons and employees alike. I would love the chance to experience this place during such a bacchanal. I can only imagine the kinds of men and women that fill the space when debauchery is on everyone’s agenda and how many club rules are broken.
Even if you don’t make it The Country Club during Southern Decadence or Mardi Gras, The Country Club has weekly parties worth attending — everything from drag events to sports-themed beer bashes. But with a place as relaxing and welcoming as this, you don’t ever need an excuse to drop by.
The Country Club is located at 634 Louisa Street. Admission costs $10 Monday through Friday and $15, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is only $8 after 5 p.m. Towels and lockers are also available for rent for $2 each.