Article by Holly Renehan 8/05 “From the Ground Up: The Old Absinthe House”:
“Yousef “Jober’t” Salem, once an electrical engineering and physics major at Tulane University, began working his way up the food chain of New Orleans restaurants. Born and raised in Kuwait, Salem landed his first restaurant job as a busboy at Andrea’s in 1984. Years after buying, running, and selling several restaurants in the New Orleans area, Salem bought the Old Absinthe House Bar at 400 Bourbon St. from his friend Joe Sinatra. When Salem’s plans to turn the space into a Mango Mango Daiquiri Shop leaked, “World War III started. Everybody was against me,” he says. “They used to chase me out on the street. I would wear jeans and a t-shirt to work so I would look like an employee.”
But Salem kept secret his ultimate plan. And he kept hidden the ultimate prize now in his possession: the original cypress bar – dating back to the time of Jean Lafitte and before – which he also bought from Sinatra for $1.
“So I worked hard,” Salem says. “I started coming around to shake hands with Mr. Tony. He said, ‘I like you. You’re a hard-working boy.'”
Salem knew it was the dream of Moran’s father, Diamond Jim, to return the wooden bar to its original home at 240 Bourbon St. He gained Moran’s confidence and told him he could make his father’s dream come true. Moran, after many meetings and reassurances from Salem, asked only that Salem keep the name of his namesake restaurant and that he treat the customers well. In 2002, after 50 years in the restaurant business, Moran relinquished the reins of The Old Absinthe House, the adjacent Pasta E Vino restaurant, and the Tony Moran’s restaurant upstairs.”