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‘There’s no one in New Orleans:’ Strict COVID mandates impact tourism to the city

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 9:29 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - French Quarter businesses are feeling the impact of the city-wide vaccine mandate as they say tourism takes a nosedive.

“It literally feels like they’ve turned a faucet off and the tourists stopped coming,” said Brian Mullin of the Local 718 Five Star Dive Bar on Bourbon Street.

The tighter COVID-19 restrictions in New Orleans are causing visitors to change plans and even canceling their trips to the city.

“[Tourists] waited to come, and then we booked our trip and now it’s like it’s over,” said Mullin. “It’s almost like showing up in the ninth inning of a baseball game. That’s how it feels like on Bourbon Street.”

Those visiting the city during the new mandates said they can sense it’s a little different.

“It’s quiet,” said Anne Hughey, from Arkansas, who has visited New Orleans several times before. “There’s not very many people down here.”

“It’s been pretty calm,” said Daryl Dabney of New Jersey. “It’s been pretty laid back.”

“Everything is very tame,” said Kim Laramore of Texas. “I haven’t noticed any big crowds at all.”

Kelly Schulz with New Orleans and Company said they pulled their national advertising campaign due to the rise in COVID cases and with the cancellation of fall events like Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest.

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“We’re sort of in the middle of a difficult period right now,” she said. “We’re starting to see some negative reaction to the vaccine and test mandate that went into effect Monday.”

She said people are hesitant to travel right now due to the Delta variant and the new vaccine mandate, which is directly impacting restaurants and other event spaces like at the Local 718 bar.

“I had ten events scheduled in October on the balcony here. Everyone canceled. It just cost me $700,000,” said Mullin.

He said his business is taking a huge hit with the new mandates and the cancellation of fall events.

“I have three bars in this city-- on Frenchman, Bourbon, and one in the Warehouse District. I walk back and forth between them-- there’s no one in New Orleans.”

An eerie feeling, he said, that has him worried for the future of his business.

“There was a light at the end of the tunnel and now that light seems to be sirens telling us how everything is going wrong at the end of the tunnel and that’s what’s scary,” said Mullin.

Now it’s back to the drawing board to attract visitors to a city that is trying to play it safe.

“This is a setback. There’s no question. But we’re gonna move forward, We’re going to be ok,” said Schulz. “We’re gonna keep doing everything we can at New Orleans and Company to drive business.”

Tourism leaders aren’t standing still. New Orleans and Company are working on ways to drive business to New Orleans this fall in smaller and safer ways.

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