NEW ORLEANS – There is no doubt that one of the great gifts of our city, is its food. However, as restaurants in the Crescent City continue to struggle through the coronavirus blues, a great number of them will not survive.
Back in March, the Governor ordered a number of businesses to temporarily close as the state prepared to shutdown facing a rise in coronavirus cases and coronavirus deaths. Restaurants were limited to delivery and takeout.
Now, four months later and as the Louisiana Restaurant Association predicts that a quarter of Louisiana’s restaurants overall will close; they also predict that 40 percent of New Orleans’ eateries will also close for good.
Some businesses decided early on that the way to stay in business would be to offer takeout, however, for restaurant owner Wayne Baquet, that was not going to work, because of the buffet style nature of his restaurant, saying, “we’re not open for business. We are doing a little bit of catering to pay the bills. I feel bad for our employees. But this is the way it is, there’s nothing we can do to change it. We just have to hang in there and see what happens. We are not going to get through this until we get a vaccine and we need to brace ourselves and expect a great loss.”
There are close to 600 full-service restaurants and over 14 thousand estimated restaurant jobs in New Orleans. Wayne Baquet’s Lil Dizzy’s Cafe is one of the beloved restaurants synonymous with authentic creole food. The Baquet family is one of the great culinary families in the city and has fed New Orleans since the 1940’s.
The fact is, New Orleans is blessed to be the home of a cornucopia of restaurant choices and many of them have a story and a pedigree and that is the uniquely tragic dilemma at the front. In a city treasured for it’s spice, there’s a real danger of losing irreplaceable piece of world famous metropolis and it’s culinary legacy.
Wayne Baquet has weathered many of storm and come out on top. He hopes that Lil Dizzy’s will be among the survivors saying, “we are at least 75 to 80 years of cooking in New Orleans. Katrina was bad, but this is ten times worse. At least with Katrina, you could leave, hope things get better and come back. That’s not the case here.”
A word of hope is needed. The story of the New Orleans restaurants vs. the coronavirus is not a story of dinosaurs vs a cosmically caused extinction, it’s more like a prizefight of the coronavirus vs. the cayenne pepper spirit of New Orleans. The seasoning has taken 300 years to set in, and there’s no time for defeat now.