“You can’t donate food to many people because they don’t have the power to cook,” she said, as she finished cleaning out the walk-in fridge at Compère Lapin. She’d found someone who wanted the produce, but milk and fresh pasta were headed for the trash.
James Doucette, the general manager of Meals From The Heart Cafe, which maintains a counter in the French Quarter’s open-air market, also lamented all the waste.
“This storm is yet another obstacle we must face,” he wrote in an email, adding that his team is currently displaced.
It’s not just the loss of weekend tourists that will devastate the restaurant industry, said Alon Shaya, the founder of Pomegranate Hospitality, which manages two restaurants. It’s the fact that the storm will also keep longer term visitors away. Students had just returned to Tulane University, which was helpful to his restaurant, Saba, about a mile away. Now the university is postponing classes for at least another month.
This sense of whiplash is not new to New Orleans’ hospitality industry. Early in the pandemic business was so bad that nearly half of the city’s restaurants and a third of its hotels closed indefinitely. Then, as more people got vaccinated and decided to return to New Orleans, optimism soared. At some point in the spring, business for Mr. Church, who manages a diner as well as the three French Quarter gay bars, actually surpassed its 2018 all-time high.
Then Delta showed up and Bourbon Street died, he said, noting that a few weeks ago, practically overnight, his bars went from making around $10,000 a night to $1,000. He believes that tourists stopped coming in once his staff got strict about rules requiring proof of vaccination and masks, requirements he supports.
He was looking forward to all the visitors this weekend because the Southern Decadence festival had been so clear about communicating requirements.