NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Many merchants are struggling to keep their doors open. Normally this would be a big week but this year the Bayou Classic will be in the Spring in Shreveport.
Some shop owners spoke about what the pandemic is doing to the landscape of the French Quarter.
Normally right now, the French Quarter would be buzzing with visitors in preparation for the Bayou Classic weekend, the huge matchup between Grambling University and Southern University.
With no conventions, events, Mardi Gras and now Bayou Classic, store owners in the French Quarter are angry and frustrated. They are almost begging the city to turn things around for business.
The streets of the French Quarter are seeing less foot traffic and the shops are seeing fewer dollars.
“Business has been absolutely horrific. Horrific. The worst. We’ve been here 30 years and this is the worst that we’ve ever seen since Katrina. Ever,” says Allison Robinson, owner of Wise Buys Boutique on Chartres Street.
Robinson says this time of year is usually good for business but this year, not so much as events are being cancelled left and right.
“On the weekends, yeah, there are people walking around. But they’re mostly drinking and partying and it’s a younger crowd,” says Robinson.
Her shop caters to an older generation so she is suffering.
“They’re not really shopping when they come in. When they do come in, they go straight for the sale rack you know,” says Robinson.
How do they survive and make money?
“I don’t know. That’s the big question,” says Robinson.
A question that many other shop owners don’t know how to answer. Some shops are even closing for good.
“I think they’re just trying to sell what they have and then they may have to shut down. It just hurts my heart. I’m like, I hate that because it could easily be us,” says Elizabeth Mahfouz.
Mahfouz is the store manager at Toulouse Royale Gifts. She says over the 40 years the store has been in business, this is the slowest it has ever been.
And without the events that take place in the French Quarter, they, along with other businesses, are struggling to stay afloat.
“We just wish that we could get back to normal, bring the bands back in the streets and have people come back,” says Mahfouz. “It’s just so uncertain right now which is kind of scary.”
Scary to think that if things don’t change, and soon, the French Quarter could look completely different.
“We’re actually thinking that we’re going to maybe temporarily move to a different location outside the Quarter just because it seems like the little small neighborhoods, old Metairie, Lakeview, those neighborhoods are coming back faster than the Quarter does,” says Robinson.
“Locals are what make up the French Quarter so you don’t want them to leave,” say Mahfouz.
So they’re begging the city to step in and help the merchants or otherwise risk an empty French Quarter.
As of right now, the 47th annual Bayou Classic will be played on Saturday, April 17 at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.
The 48th Bayou Classic is scheduled to return to New Orleans in November of 2021.
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