Week in Review, Feb. 15-19: Mardi Gras on Ice
NEW ORLEANS – The big news this week is mostly about what didn’t happen: Mardi Gras arrived (sort of) but there were no big crowds or coronavirus “super spreader” events thanks to a combination of health restrictions and freezing weather.
And, regarding that weather, it was bad but it could have been a lot worse. Texas suffered frozen pipes and power outages to a much greater degree than Louisiana so local leaders have been counting their blessings. In general, the city’s infrastructure survived the unusual and historic freeze.
Here, from staff and wire reports, are more of the week’s top business stories:
The city shut down the French Quarter and other popular tourist gathering spots to prevent crowds – but the cold weather helped just as much. Coronavirus-related limits on access to Bourbon Street, shuttered bars and frigid weather all prevented what New Orleans usually craves at the end of Mardi Gras season — streets and businesses jam-packed with revelers. Parades and parties on Fat Tuesday and the days leading up to the annual pre-Lenten bash usually draw more than a million people to the streets.
… With Mardi Gras in the rearview, the City of New Orleans announced that new COVID-19 guidelines will go into effect at 6 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 19, allowing bars and breweries to resume indoor service at 25% of their permitted occupancy. Since the City eased restrictions and reentered a “modified phase two” on Jan. 29, the case counts, positivity rate, and transmission rate in New Orleans have all decreased, allowing for further easing of some restrictions. Bars and breweries will be allowed to operate indoors at 25% capacity as long as the positivity rate in Orleans Parish remains below 5%. Bars can only be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., per state proclamation.
… While the pandemic has forced many churches across the area to alter or cancel their Friday fish fry fundraisers, 39 local restaurants will keep the tradition alive with a new campaign. Fish Fry Fridays will serve as a fundraising event to benefit Hospitality Cares, a partnership between Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and United Way of Southeast Louisiana. Participating restaurants will donate $1 per fish fry meal sold each week.
… And Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested a presidential emergency declaration in response to winter weather that has left at least three people dead and tens of thousands without electricity and water. Requested federal assistance includes commodities and supplies to help the state deal with extended power outages. “I spoke with President Biden on Tuesday about the severe impact this historic weather is having on Louisiana, and I am confident that working with our federal and local partners we can overcome these challenges, which are felt particularly hard in communities still recovering from hurricanes since last year,” said Edwards.
Deals and Debuts
Blue Krewe and the City of New Orleans have announced that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana will remain the title sponsor of New Orleans’ bikeshare program. The insurer was the title sponsor of the original Blue Bikes program, which launched in 2017. With this commitment, when bikeshare resumes on Crescent City streets later this year, the program will again be called Blue Bikes.
LCMC Health has opened a new urgent care clinic at 5800 Magazine Street. In addition to delivering accredited care for minor injuries and illnesses, the new clinic will provide direct access to LCMC Health physicians for patients needing follow-up care. LCMC Health’s family of healthcare facilities includes Children’s Hospital New Orleans, East Jefferson General Hospital, New Orleans East Hospital, Touro, West Jefferson Medical Center, and University Medical Center.
Avant Organics LLC, a new specialty chemicals company, plans to manufacture innovative products at the Central Louisiana Regional Port in Alexandria, subject to a final lease agreement. Parent company Crest Industries said it will make a $4 million capital investment and create 40 new direct jobs through the project.
Interim HealthCare of East Louisiana, a provider of home care, hospice and healthcare staffing, has welcomed Bob and Mandy LaFleur as new franchise owners. “We are delighted to have Bob and Mandy in the Interim HealthCare network of franchisees,” said Jennifer Sheets, Interim HealthCare Inc. president and CEO. “With decades of combined experience in healthcare leadership, community engagement and business management, the LaFleurs are positioned as ideal representatives of our mission to provide whole-person, individualized care for each patient and family. The southern Louisiana community is in exceptional hands with Bobby, Mandy and their team.”