NOLA small businesses teter on edge…Antoine’s existence threatened

The Times Picayune reports the lack of conventions, liesure tourists and publicity as reasons that small business operators are struggling to remain open…

After the revived fall convention season failed to pull them out of the doldrums, many small businesses in the city’s tourism industry say they’re hanging on by a thread and in desperate need of leisure travelers.

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An estimated 197,000 guests attended conventions at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which hosts the largest gatherings, this year. That compared with about 372,000 attendees in the shortened 2005 convention year and more than 523,700 in 2004.

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It’s leisure travelers that the smaller tourist-driven businesses miss most.

Before Katrina, leisure tourists made up more than 70 percent of the more than 10 million yearly visitors to the city, said Sandy Shilstone, chief executive of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp. There are no comparable figures for 2005 and 2006, though no one seems to disagree that the number of such visitors has fallen.

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Lack of publicity

Small-business owners agree that not enough is being done.

“What I really wish is that there were somebody who did what (former New York City Mayor Rudolph) Giuliani did. (After the 9/11 terrorist attacks), he was on every single media outlet saying ‘Come to New York. If you’re patriotic, come to New York,’ ” Fournier said. “Where are the people from here, hitting the road, being on talk shows?”

In a separate article the Times Picayune reports that Antione’s continued existence is threatened

In its 166 years, Antoine’s Restaurant has survived the Civil War, Reconstruction, Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars and countless other vicissitudes.

But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’ oldest restaurant is coping with challenges that threaten its continued existence.

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With 850 seats, a restaurant the size of Antoine’s should be serving more than 2,000 meals a night, said Blount, its chief executive officer since early 2005.

Instead, he said, it has been averaging 156 meals a day on the five days a week it is open, down 60 percent from before Katrina.

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“My only salvation, my only hope, is that New Orleans recovers,” he [Blount] said, bringing a resurgence not just of local customers but especially of the tourists and conventioneers who were the basis of Antoine’s business.

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2 thoughts on “NOLA small businesses teter on edge…Antoine’s existence threatened

  1. ” With 850 seats, a restaurant the size of Antoine’s should be serving more than 2,000 meals a night, said Blount, its chief executive officer since early 2005.
    Instead, he said, it has been averaging 156 meals a day on the five days a week it is open, down 60 percent from before Katrina. ”
    Something doesn’t work here. Should be serving 2000 meals a night. Down 60% means either:
    It’s now serving 800 meals a night (clearly wrong from the 156 meals given), or,
    Before Katrina it was serving 260 meals a night (156/0.60).
    Whatever the real numbers are, it’s a tragedy to lose Antoine’s.

  2. A truly great place to eat. I remember that even the brocholi was remarkable. And the bread pudding a taste of Heaven.
    I really hope they don’t go away.

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