Where You Eat: What’s Keeping New Orleans Restaurants Cooking During the Pandemic

I walked past closed bars and toasted them with a drink to take home, hoping they would come back.

I walked into centuries-old restaurants the first few days of their reopening, mask on, hands sticking with sanitizer, intensely aware of every step, every breath, as if diving above a reef of sea urchins.

I have seen people in hospitality who had their own broken livelihoods stepping up to help others.

And I received with relief the news that a desired reservation was simply not available, because at least it meant that the restaurant was doing business and therefore had a chance to be there for the next time.

Perhaps some of these elements are also familiar to you. After all, the experience of our restaurants and bars over two years of the pandemic has been closely watched, very public, and guided in many ways by our own decisions and interactions with them.

Being there is what makes these places click. It’s about people, interactions, experiences. And then suddenly, everything changed.

The first shutdown orders came two years ago this week, and all bets were off.

Smart money certainly doesn’t seem to be on most of our restaurants and bars that have made it this far.

But, despite heartbreaking losses, a lot of stress and surely a lot of new debt, most made it.

Some – but not enough – got help from federal relief programs. Many have flexed their own ingenuity.

And then there were us, their customers, the people who did their part by being there.

We could do more than watch what was happening. New Orleans residents, as well as visitors, rekindled these interactions, created their own new experiences, and in doing so helped define how the pandemic would play out in this sphere.

Through it all, the hospitality people continued to welcome us, setting the stage for us to reclaim a piece of our own lives, social and civic.

I don’t know which way the winds will blow next. But I know I feel better when I hang out with people who have resisted them so far.

Comments are closed.