Some bars in New Orleans have replaced the festive Mardi Gras flags that hang in their stores this time of year with white ones

Beaux Church, director of Café Lafitte in Exile, Good Friends Bar, and Rawhide 2010, said the white flags indicate the companies surrendered to the citywide approach during New Orleans’ most iconic celebration

“We’d already bought all of our food and drink supplies and we pulled the carpet out from under us at the last minute,” Church said. “Any bar owners would have been much better off with at least two weeks’ notice.”

Mayor LaToya Cantrell cited coronavirus-related concerns on February 5 that all bars in the city would be closed for five days – from the Friday before Carnival to Fat Tuesday itself, which falls on February 16 of this year’s sale liquor is not permitted in the French Quarter, including liquor stores Take-away drinks are prohibited during the five day parades and large gatherings are already prohibited, and masks and social distancing are required

Officials hope to avoid repeating the 2020 Mardi Gras, which drew over a million people to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras and unwittingly contributed to the outbreak and caused the city’s hospitals to reach their capacities

This means that the city’s tourism-dependent economy – consisting of restaurants, bars, small shops and hotels already affected by the pandemic – can hardly look forward to this carnival season

“This year I am doing everything I can to protect our people and save lives because I know what we know now,” she said, “I would rather be accused of doing too much than too little”

According to the New Orleans & Company, which promotes tourism in the city, New Orleans is currently losing up to $ 130 million in visitor spend per week due to Covid-19

“New Orleans has a reputation and a brand that far outweighs actual size and we see the destruction of most of our economy, “said Stephen Perry, CEO and President of the agency

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, tourism and hospitality were among the top industries in both the city and the country.In 2019, Louisiana attracted nearly 53 million domestic visitors who spent about $ 18 billion, according to a report by D. Shifflet, a consumer travel research company

Cantrell’s decision to extend restrictions at such a busy and lucrative time followed large gatherings on Bourbon Street and other parts of town in the days leading up to the holiday weekend, which Cantrell described as “unacceptable”

Church said security measures are essential, but added that businesses and employees depend on the celebrations to grow sales during a difficult time for many people in the city

“We have brought many of our staff back for vacation in the hopes of generating enough income to keep some of them for a while,” Church said. “We’re a close group and it’s sad to be like that a lot of people have to let go “

Like Church, entrepreneurs and operators in the city have had problems with reduced hours and different regulations for almost a year, which has led many to question whether their businesses can survive the pandemic. The recent restrictions are another blow to tourism – and the hospitality industry struggling to make it through

Without the usual Mardi Gras celebrations, many companies will miss out on an expected increase in profits, said Markus Schuckert, professor and director of the Hospitality Research Center at the University of New Orleans

Hotel occupancy is typically at least 90 percent during Carnival season, however, according to the Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association, the average occupancy for 2021 is around 20 percent

“Mardi Gras is a mega-event run by locals for locals and tourists,” said Schuckert. “It affects the whole city and has a huge impact on revenue as so many people come here to spend money”

Kristin Gisleson Palmer, councilor for New Orleans, whose zone includes the French Quarter, said her district is the biggest driver of the city’s revenue and the hardest-hit area since the pandemic

“It’s very worrying, I’m afraid that neighborhood bars and restaurants are going to close, and I hear from the owners that any small income helps and they’ve been relying on [Carnival],” Palmer said >

Shelly Oechsner Waguespack, president of Pat O’Brien’s, a bar in the French Quarter, said she was disappointed with the recent crackdown on the city and struggled with the idea of ​​closing in the middle of Carnival

Waguespack said the bar’s revenues were down 75 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.In addition, it had to lay off around 170 employees and currently only employs around 30 people

“It’s our weekend in New Orleans and the fact that we can’t party takes away a large part of our being,” said Waguespack. “People don’t realize it, but Mardi Gras is much more than pearls on us the street It’s a whole culture “

Mardi Gras

World News – Companies in the US and New Orleans are preparing for Mardi Gras to close

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-orleans-businesses-brace-mardi-gras-shutdown-n1257757