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Earl Bernhardt, co-inventor of the New Orleans Hand Grenade, dies at 80


Bernhardt was the co-owner of Tropical Isle and was well known for his appearances in the bar’s unconventional commercials on TV.

NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) — Earl Bernhardt, the co-founder of the Tropical Isle bar and co-inventor of the world-famous “Hand Grenade” beverage died Thursday. He was 80. 

Bernhardt and his business partner Pam Fortner opened Bourbon Street’s Tropical Isle in December of 1984 and made a name selling their invention: the “New Orleans Hand Grenade,” a strong alcoholic beverage served in a green, grenade-shaped container that has long been one of the city’s most popular drinks. 

A spokesperson with Bernhardt’s family told WWL-TV he passed overnight Dec. 5 from natural causes. He had been facing health issues but was thought to be getting better, she said. Bernhardt turned 80 in August. 

He and Fortner became well known for their unconventional commercials to advertise the bar and the hand grenade, which aired on WWL-TV and other local stations over the years. 

“He was loved by so many here, nationally and internationally we will be allowing time for those that want to pay their respects in person to celebrate his life in his favorite city – New Orleans,” Fortner said. 

“He and I started Tropical Isle back in 1984 bring joy and lasting memories to literally 100’s of thousands of people over three and a half decades. We will continue doing just that. Make sure you raise a glass for Earl, because we know that’s what he would have wanted,” Fortner said.  

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced Friday, although Fortner said there would be a second line to honor the life of Bernhardt. 

“Mr. Bernhardt has always been a big supporter of the French Quarter and the City of New Orleans, member of several community organizations and the founding member of the French Quarter Alliance,” Fortner said. 

Social media reacted to Bernhardt’s passing, with multiple people in the French Quarter community extending their condolences with his family, Fortner and the Tropical Isle family.  

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