NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As road work continues on New Orleans’ most famous tourist destination, things are looking up for Bourbon Street businesses with a two week break scheduled just in time for the Mardi Gras season.
While workers prepared to lay concrete in the 700 block of Bourbon Street Sunday afternoon (Feb. 10), Daniel Smith, the project’s superintendent, said the construction is going well.
“We’re doing pretty good. We’re ahead of schedule right now,” Smith said.
Although a sign near the site urged pedestrians to walk around the fencing around the construction, business owner Earl Bernhardt said the detour is deterring patrons from making their way all the way down Bourbon Street.
“They are turning around. they’re not going all the way when they see those fences,” Bernhardt said.
Businesses along Bourbon Street are used to the disruption, many having already felt the repercussions of construction and the toll it takes on sales.
“It really kills business, especially on busy nights," Joseph Prince, who works on Bourbon Street, said. "It really kills it because a lot of customers can’t get to the bar. It’s easy in and out. If they can’t get in and out easy, they’re going to go somewhere where they can.”
Jennifer Misleh is visiting from San Diego for her 25th birthday and was surprised to see the famous landmark ripped up.
“It’s Bourbon Street, everyone talks about Bourbon Street, New Orleans, you gotta go,” Misleh said. “I don’t get what’s going on here. We want to go check out the shops and do what we want to do, and it’s just kind of everywhere. ”
Bernhardt owns five bars on Bourbon, with a few still in the thick of construction.
“Our bars in the middle of the street seems to be suffering worse. I would say they’re off about 50 percent in sales. Our corner bars are off about 25 percent in sales,” Bernhardt said.
Which is why he and others are eagerly awaiting a promised reprieve.
“It will be all accessible,” Smith said. “You’ll be able to walk on the sidewalk, walk on the street, there’s no fence, no equipment, won’t even know the job was here.”
The Mardi Gras break isn’t just a plus for businesses, it’s a necessity. They’re hoping one of the city’s biggest money-makers will make up for lost sales.
“We depend on Mardi Gras every year to pay our taxes and our insurance and all our big expenses,” Bernhardt said. “We’re certainly hoping for a big Mardu Gras like we normally have. I think if they take everything down like they plan to, everything should go well.”
For now, businesses bide their time and look forward to a brand new Bourbon.
“The street will be worth it once it’s fixed. It’s just aggravating for now,” Pam Fortner, part owner of Tropical Isle, said.
Smith said they hope to have the Orleans Avenue intersection finished before Mardi Gras and anticipate halting the projects and having the streets cleared by Feb, 17 -- just over two weeks before Mardi Gras day. Construction will resume March 7, the day after Ash Wednesday.