NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Restaurant Association estimates that one of every four restaurants won't survive the COVID-19 outbreak -- and they warn it could be worse in New Orleans.
One big name that shut down recently with the virus blamed was K-Paul's on Chartres Street in the French Quarter.
On Friday, Bellegarde Bakery in the Carrollton area announced its closure.
“The financial and emotional toll of COVID-19 has made it impossible to bake bread and mill flour,” owner Graison Gill wrote on Facebook. “We have been losing money since March 15, and there is simply no more left to lose.”
Greg Reggio had to shut down one of his restaurants, Semolina's, in Metairie. It was the same story: not enough customers to make it financially feasible to keep the doors open.
“Tumbleweeds if we had them in Louisiana would've been all over that parking lot,” he said. “There was nothing there driving it. It just got to the point where it didn't make sense.”
He still has Zea's, but said that with 312,000 people still out of work in Louisiana, many don't have disposable income to go out to eat right now.
Stan Harris, who heads up the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said restaurants contribute more than $1 billion a year in sales tax to state and local governments, not to mention the jobs they provide.
“There are real economic challenges that people don't typically think about when they're ordering a po-boy or when they're going out for a piece of fish or going to have a great steak,” Harris said. “They don't realize what an economic engine it is.”
Reggio said that even with to-go orders, sales still won't be enough for many restaurants.
“You don't have the bodies, you don't have the business,” he said. “You don't have the business, you got nothing.”