Without the festival, numerous businesses are skirting dangerous financial lines.
Earlier in the month, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that all bars in the city would be required to close their doors from February 12 to February 17, missing Mardi Gras entirely. Additionally, parties and large gatherings are not permitted, no parade permits are being issued, and no liquor sales will be permitted in the French Quarter, even from liquor stores. All of these measures are being taken to reduce the potential of a Mardi Gras-induced COVID-19 hotspot, similarly to what happened in 2020.
As a result of these decisions, bars, restaurants, hotels, and other such businesses that rely heavily on tourism to the city will be extremely limited in the business they are able to conduct, if they are able to conduct any at all.
“We had already purchased all of our food and drink supplies … and we had the rug pulled out from under us at the last minute,” Beaux Church, director of Café Lafitte, said. “All of the bar owners would have been much better off with at least two weeks’ notice.”
New Orleans depends heavily on tourism even in normal times, and as such, the past year has been devastating to numerous small business owners.
“New Orleans has a reputation and brand that far outweighs its actual size … and what we are seeing is the devastation of the largest part of our economy,” said Stephen Perry, CEO and President of tourism promotor New Orleans & Company.
“It’s very concerning. … I am fearful that neighborhood bars and restaurants will close, and I am hearing from owners that every little bit of income helps, and they were relying on [Mardi Gras],” said New Orleans council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
Business owners that were calling in staff to handle Mardi Gras have been forced to send them away, leaving both them and their employees in an unsure state.
“It’s our New Orleans weekend, and the fact that we can’t celebrate takes away a huge chunk of our being,” bar owner Shelly Oechsner Waguespack said. “People don’t realize it, but Mardi Gras to us is a lot more than beads in the streets. It’s a whole culture.”