New Orleans, with its famous French Quarter is still loud, wild and rambunctious. People are still allowed to drink alcohol in the streets and they party accordingly. But there is a different feeling here since Hurricane Katrina. Somehow, it feels the like fun and frivolity have been minimized. There are not as many people vacationing here, and therefore, not as much business. As a result, many clubs, bars, and restaurants are in trouble, if they haven't closed already.
Case in point, the Deep South Lounge, a bar in the French Quarter. The owner, Louis, opened it up a few years ago. Business had been booming. He bought a mechanical bull, encouraged bachelor and bachelorette parties, and was having the time of his life with jam-packed weekends in his business. But then came Katrina, and with it, an exodus of locals and the disappearance of tourists. Louis told me he would gross about $4,000 on a good weekend night. Last weekend, he only grossed about $600. He can no longer afford to stay open, so this week he decided to shut the doors on his dream business.
Other businesses are also having a tough time making a buck, but some are sticking it out due to deeper pockets or deeper resolve. The Voodoo Barbecue's business is down 50 percent from last year, according to the owner, and she's now digging into her financial reserves to keep it open. But she and her employees say they believe the city -- and their business -- will come back.
City officials tell us they expect a rebound and are encouraged that conventions are starting to return to New Orleans. But it could be three or four years before the comeback is considered complete, providing there are no more Katrinas.
And that is the underlying fear here. Odds are there won't be another Katrina-magnitude storm here for a long time to come. But as we enter another hurricane season, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone here who doesn't think about that possibility.