Final Four fans pour into New Orleans; restaurants expect to benefit from the big weekend

Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 7:14 PM CDT
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Final Four fans poured into the city on Friday afternoon for the big games.
Final Four fans poured into the city on Friday afternoon for the big games.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Lines for taxis, Uber, and Lyft stretched a long distance at Louis Armstrong Airport on Friday afternoon as thousands of people poured into New Orleans for the big Final Four weekend, and restaurants in the city are ready.

Jeff Morris was slowly inching the line to get a taxi ride to the downtown area.

‘I’ve had tickets for nine months. I’m just lucky that Kansas is here. It’s a great lineup,” said Morris.

Inside the terminal, the baggage claim area was filled with basketball fans who had just deplaned.

“For the weekend, I’m a Duke fan. I’m actually from Pennsylvania, this will be my first Final Four. Four great schools obviously playing in it,” said Luke Pisarcik.

An airport spokeswoman said airline seat capacity is up 3% this weekend compared to last weekend. She also said that in the month of March, the airport saw 80% of the traffic it did in March 2019, which was pre-pandemic, and the airport is also seeing an increase in charter flights and private aviation activity. Further, she said Delta Airlines added a new flight from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina just to accommodate fans flying in for the weekend.

With tens of thousands of visitors pouring into the city this weekend, it is good news for the hospitality industry, including New Orleans’s most renowned restaurants.

Galatoire’s Restaurant on Bourbon Street was packed at noon.

“It’s a great day for us, it’s a great day for the industry, it’s a great day for the city of New Orleans and it’s going to impact us in an extremely positive way,” said Melvin Rodrigue, Galatoire’s President.

Across town at Commander’s Palace, Ti Adelaide Martin, who is co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace, said business is great.

“For Commanders, we always save tables for our locals, you know, and regulars, so we’ve been, we’re full, we’re as full as we can be. I’ll be honest with you, we still have staff shortages like everybody,” said Martin.

Rodrigue said they too have staffing shortages.

“It is definitely taking its toll between the pandemic and Hurricane Ida. It took a really tough toll on our staff levels. We are probably at about 80% of our pre-pandemic staff levels at this point and so we live within the confines of that but everyone’s really working hard,” said Rodrigue.

Still, Martin said the city is bouncing back.

“It’s just thrilling around here. I mean the last couple of weeks honestly. But this weekend people are walking around the Garden District, it just feels like it used to feel,” said Martin. “We’re back to parking cars and people are all over the Garden District and I’m downtown at SoBou and it’s a blast.”

The four days of events put the city back on the national stage.

“As an industry, we just have to keep pushing forward; take positive events that like this that can shine a positive light on the city and do the best we can and turn that into something better,” said Rodrigue.

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