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'People are afraid' - Popular N.O. diner considers closing or moving over crime

“They’re afraid to come and park their cars because of the carjackings and the break-ins."

NEW ORLEANS — Betsy’s Pancake House is as New Orleans as the streetcar that runs in front it.

The restaurant has been serving breakfast and lunch at Canal and South Dorgenois for more than 35 years.

“It’s a great place to eat breakfast and very, very affordable and great food,” customer Henry Alterman said. “We come here two or three times a week.”

The number of regulars like Alterman isn't what it once was.

Mary Murdock admits her family-run diner is now doing less than half the business it did five years ago.

She says she knows why some customers are avoiding her Mid-City restaurant.

“They’re afraid to come and park their cars because of the carjackings and the break-ins,” Murdock said. “It’s not only us, it’s any place in the city that you go to.”

The city’s crime problem is also making it difficult for Betsy’s to hire enough workers to reopen on Sundays. That is also hurting the restaurant’s bottom line.

“We cannot get employees because people are afraid to come to work,” Murdock said. “We open at 5:30 in the morning and our girls and our guys in the kitchen have to be here at 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning.”

Family members now make up most of the staff.

Ashley Oldenburg is third generation at Betsy’s.

“It’s just hard to see that my grandmother’s legacy is just very quickly going under, and I hate that,” Oldenburg said. “It’s heartbreaking to see how quickly it is changing.”

Her family is sensitive to crime and its impact on people’s everyday lives.

The restaurant’s namesake and founder, Betsy McDaniel, was murdered during a home invasion 14 years ago.

“In my heart, it’s still my mom’s,” Murdock said. “People say it’s not, but in my heart, it is. It’s my mom’s place. So, I don’t want to change that and try to keep it like she had it.”

Kate Fusilier read a post on social media saying Betsy’s is struggling for customers.

So, she came all the way from the Northshore to have brunch at the restaurant.

“This is the heartbeat of the city, right on Canal, Mid-City,” Fusilier said. “This is where we want it to stay, for sure.”

Some of Betsy’s customers have suggested that the business relocate to Jefferson Parish. The owners say at this point, all options are on the table.

“I need our people to come back so we can stay open because I love New Orleans,” Murdock said. “I don’t want to leave New Orleans.”

According to Murdock, they will decide as a family whether to stay, go or shut down after the first of the year.

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