New Orleans - Beatrix Bell has plenty of time these days to make the hand-crafted jewelry she sells in her shop in Algiers Point. That's the good news.
The bad news is, she doesn't have many customers to sell to.
For a variety of reasons - faulty parts, missed Coast Guard inspections, delivery delays - neither the full-time Algiers ferry (nor its backup ferry) have been able to cross the Mississippi River since September. And most Algiers Point businesses depend on the ferry to bring tourists across the river from the French Quarter.
Bell says those tourists used to be steady customers-- she figures she had anywhere from ten to 25 tourists in her shop every day. With the ferry is out of service, Bell says she's had just 8 tourists in her store in the last two months.
But it's even worse for Carly Hammond, owner of the "One Stone" coffee shop around the corner.
Hammond says she relied on the tourists for 25 % of her business, and without them she just can't make it. A sign outside the shop on Sunday read "the last hurrah," as Hammond shared coffee and mimosas with customers from the neighborhood. Hammond said she loved her "loyal locals" but losing the ferry's tourists was "a sucker punch," and Sunday was the shop's last day in business.
Beatrix Bell says business is looking bleak for her too. She says she's "desperately trying to hang on," but she's considering cutting back on the store's hours so she can take a second job.
Many business owners like Bell and Hammond believe the New Orleans city government has abandoned them. They've heard conflicting stories about when the ferry might be back in operation, with no firm answers.
On Monday (Dec. 9), the Regional Transit Authority announced the hiring of a new contractor to operate the ferries, replacing the beleaguered "Transdev."
But Transdev had promised to disburse $100,000 to struggling businesses in Algiers Point to help them make it though December. Now the fate of that money is uncertain.
"I'm playing it by ear," says Bell, "hoping that they get some sort of boat in the water by January 1st."