A Vieux From Toulouse

Coming soon: Pirates of the Vieux Carre
(Art by Eric Styles)

“Those Bourbon Street bar owners must make money hand over fist.” We as employees ring up thousands of dollars every night, take home wads of cash from our tip buckets and read about how we are part of a $9 billion-a-year industry. We roll our eyes when our employers bitch about us wasting cups or over pouring shots. All they have to do is just open the doors at 10 a.m. and the money just blows in the doors.  After Mardi Gras, they must be sitting on six figures easy, yet they whine.

Sit down and really listen to the bar owners. “We’re working for the landlords” is the common theme. Every year rents go up, often by thousands. About six years ago, I heard from a reliable source that one of the biggest businesses in the Quarter was forking out over $45,000 per month for their very large footprint. It’s well over $50,000 by now, probably. The vast majority of commercial properties are owned by a small number of families (er, I mean “Property Management Companies”).

They bought up the Quarter decades ago when it was seen as a gritty worn down section of town. Families and businesses were moving out to the vast expanse of the suburbs. The French Quarter was investment property purchased by revenue from other lucrative endeavors. All of the deeds have been paid off long before most of us were even born. Even those who own the property face enormous tax bills annually.

Look up property tax in the Quarter if you want to pick your jaw up off of the ground. Details of leases are dumbfounding.

Often, the renter is responsible for paying for repairs and up keep. Imagine as a residential renter, your water heater goes and it’s up to you to pay for its replacement. Now imagine holding a lease on a 250-year-old commercial property. Every year facing a leaking roof, a rotting dormer, deteriorating brickwork and all of the upkeep to a building that you don’t even own. Not to mention the appliances such as coolers, freezers, stoves and the like. Money goes out the door as fast as it comes in.

This shut down is draining bank accounts faster than a homeless guy drains a pint of Heavens Hill. Expect to see some of our favorites never to reopen.

All of those dollars made over Mardi Gras were earmarked to cover expenses this summer. So if they don’t reopen, who will fill those vacancies? I doubt if you will have many entrepreneurs thinking “I have a million to invest in a business, let me buy a Bourbon Street bar that just went under from a pandemic shut down that may happen again next year.”  

A few owners may just say “Fuck it. Let me cut my losses while I still have a little money to retire on.”

If you were a huge, multinational corporation with lots of capital for expansion and could weather long term storms, you might see this as an excellent opportunity. A chance to get a piece of that lucrative $9 billion dollar pie. That’s how they function and succeed. With the capital to take a loss over a few years they can drive out competition that can’t. The smoke clears and a handful are left holding it all.

How do I see the French Quarter in a couple of years? A gentrified, family-friendly atmosphere of corporate names that occupy every American strip mall. Starbucks and T.G.I. Fridays on Bourbon Street, Outback Steakhouse and Baskin Robbins on Decatur Street. Mr Binky’s sex shop replaced by a Disney outlet store, Big Daddy’s Love Acts becomes a Hooters and Johnny’s Poor Boys turns into a Panera Bread.

They go nicely with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s vision: “This is the city’s time to re-imagine just how we live, how we move about, how we enjoy, and how we get to know and learn the fabric of our city.”  

A kinder, gentler French Quarter. Environmentally friendly hipsters on bikes cruise car free streets dotted with outdoor diners enjoying genuine New Orleans cuisine shipped in frozen from a factory in Michigan.

Licensed Disney costume characters posing for pictures with tourists instead of Uncle Louie. Unless he can come up with a $500 annual street performer permit, that will surely be part of the new and improved vision.

Do you think that all this sounds hyperbolic and unfathomable? Compare Times Square of today to that of a few decades ago. Disney cruise ships are just the landing craft for an invasion force.

A Vieux From Toulouse

Art by Eric T. Styles

Does anyone who endorses this closure realize that if it continues for much longer, we won’t have any jobs to go back to?

Each business is still paying tens of thousands in rent every month. Commercial landlords are not cutting any breaks to our employers, the water bills are still ridiculously high for empty buildings and there is still insurance, taxes and 12-month licenses that need to be paid for.

The only aid the Federal Government is offering to small businesses is to cover payroll for employees not laid off. That won’t help if your rent is $20,000 a month. The big bankrolls made by local businesses during Mardi Gras are eaten up by staying afloat over the long, slow summer months.

Now, that money is quickly being depleted before we even hit June. We now have a number of establishments that are gone and will never reopen. Every week that ticks by will add to that number.

“Let me sit out the summer collecting unemployment and stimulus checks, COOL!!

A short-sighted, selfish and stupid objective. We in the service industry struggle over the course of the summer; it’s the nature of the beast. A smart Quarter Rat does the same as their employers, saving up money from the busy times for the slow times. Longtime service workers down here know that simple strategy. Any one who wants to see the closure to continue probably is hoping for a permanent universal basic income to result from all of this. A complete lack of understanding for simple economics will place them back in their parent’s basements.

Let’s not ignore the effect of a heated and wide chasm of political divide in all of this. “The worst the economy gets, the worst Trump’s chances are for re-election. If he tweets open it up, I’ll scream keep it closed.” I hate the Captain of this ship, I hope it sinks. In fact, let me poke holes in all of the life rafts so he’ll look even worst. I would expect that from his political adversaries, Governors and Mayors whose lives really won’t be impacted very much by an economic collapse. They can exploit such hardships for political gain. It’s easy for a Hollywood celebrity to say keep the world closed from their $20 million mansion. It’s not a rational idea from the vast majority of paycheck-to-paycheck Americans.

The big corporate places may have the capital to tie them over for several months, but the mom and pop places WILL go under. We see the crowds and we ring up thousands of dollars every night for our bosses believing that they are rolling around in piles of money in the back office.

Rent, payroll, insurance, utility and supply costs per month is more than most of us make in a year. So when all of the free stimulus money from the government goes away, go look for your next job. All that will be available will be the huge corporate establishments who will treat you like shit and be able to do so because there are two dozen other Quarter Rats wanting your job.

Please spare us the posts about how much you can’t wait to return to work and then post later about how dangerous the virus supposedly is. Every time you share a hyperbolic fear meme about COVID-19 is, or an orange man bad narrative, you are digging your own graves.

Mystic Krewe of Barkus launches fund to assist pet owners with vet care during COVID-19 pandemic

The Krewe of Barkus parade in 2009. Photo by Mark Gstohl | CC.

A fund was launched by the Mystic Krewe of Barkus on Sunday to assist pet owners with veterinarian care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barkus is a canine-centric krewe. Founded in 1993, the krewe parades with dogs and their human companions through the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

The fund, however, isn’t meant only for dogs.

The crowd-sourced Barkus COVID Care Fund was established by the krewe to help pay for urgent, non-emergency care for any pets.

Other serious veterinary care needed beyond routine procedures, including surgery and medications, will also be considered.

Additionally, pets with serious chronic health problems will be reviewed.

Since launching on April 13, the fund has generated more than $400.

Funding applications and instructions are found on barkus.org. The amount provided is determined on a case-by-case basis and goes directly to the veterinarian, not the individual.

For more information or to consider donating, email info@barkus.org or visit the krewe’s Facebook page.

Rare Finds on Decatur Street has stopped selling Nazi, KKK novelties at request of the Anti-Defamation League

Peyton Rose via Google

The Rare Finds antique store on Decatur Street has stopped selling Ku Klux Klan, Nazi and other memorabilia deemed racist following a request by the New Orleans chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.

Owner Susan Saucier agreed to remove the items — which also reportedly included Jim Crow-era merchandise with caricatures of black people — at the request of the Anti-Defamation League South Central, nola.com reported.

Some of the items included at Nazi flag and a statuette of a Ku Klux Klansman with reported price tags of $1,695 and $1,295, respectively, according to the newspaper.

The business, which is located at 1231 Decatur Street, opened in 1997 and also sells Saints and Mardi Gras-themed items.

City to French Quarter residents: give us your recycled Christmas trees on Jan. 8 to help restore Louisiana’s coastline

skooksie via Flickr | CC

French Quarter residents on Wednesday are encouraged by city officials to recycle their Christmas trees in an effort to help restore Louisiana’s coastline.

Residents in the French Quarter, who are serviced by Empire Services, must place their trees at the location of their regular garbage collection before 4 a.m. on Jan. 8, said city spokeswoman LaTonya Norton.

Coastal restoration — producing barrier islands, marshes and swamps along the coast — is crucial to reducing incoming storm surge and flooding, according to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).

The CPRA estimates that, without mitigating action, the Louisiana coastline could use up to 4,120 square miles in the next 50 years.

The trees help slow erosion, trap sediment and provide a buffer to slow down waves while keeping them out of landfills, according to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

Only natural, unflocked trees that are free of all strands and trimming — including ornaments, tinsel, lights, tree stands, etc. — can be recycled, Norton added. Unflocked trees are those without artificial frosting.

Flocked and artificial trees and trees in bags, or trees with trimming that has not been removed, will be collected with garbage and transported to the landfill, Norton said, adding that trees should not be placed on the neutral grounds because it delays the collection process.

Many New Orleans residents are now in the process of disposing their trees following Twelfth Night, which signifies the end of the Christmas holiday and marking the beginning of the Mardi Gras season.

The effort to restore the coastline with recycled Christmas trees is a collaboration between the city’s Department of Sanitation and its solid waste contractors, the Louisiana National Guard and the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, which funds the project, Norton said.

The agencies will work together to collect, sort and bundle trees, which will be placed in selected coastal zones, Norton said.

In 2019, more than 6,000 Christmas trees were collected in Orleans Parish after the holidays. They were airlifted by the Louisiana National Guard into Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge as part of a program to create new marsh habitat.