Guestrooms Ralph Brennan’s Bacco
is located in the French Quarter.
By the time of the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting
New Orleans, on Aug. 29, new data was unveiled that offers a look
into the city’s economy. Some numbers continue to be grave tourism
employment figures are slowly moving up but remain below
pre-Katrina standards, for instance but others were quite
“We actually have more restaurants now than we did before
Katrina,” reported Ralph Brennan, owner of several New Orleans
restaurants, the Jazz Kitchen at Downtown Disney in Anaheim and a
member of the Brennan culinary clan. “There’s been a real
resurgence. According to the newspaper, all the numbers are down
but the restaurants are up.”
Brennan admits he bases this good news on the Web site of Tom
Fitzmorris, a local food critic, radio personality and cookbook
author. Fitzmorris has been keeping tabs on the opening and closing
of restaurants in New Orleans and finds 853 restaurants open now as
opposed to 809 before the storm.
“That’s part of our way of coping,” Brennan explained, adding
that he felt it was his duty to bring his restaurants online as
soon as possible after Katrina since food is so important to New
Orleanians. “We were a gathering place. There was a lot of hugging
and kissing going on.”
Hoping that if they opened tourists will come hasn’t exactly
worked for the restaurant industry, Brennan said. Weekends show
strong numbers for leisure tourists but weekdays do not and Brennan
is hoping for that tide to turn before having to make cuts and
He cites the decrease in conventions and cruises as the main
problem. Neither has rebounded to pre-Katrina numbers.
“The summer has been very slow. The peaks are not as high and
the valleys are lower,” he said.
The perception that New Orleans tourism areas are still closed
or rebuilding also keeps visitors away, he added.
“There’s a perception of the city that we’re still flooded,”
Brennan said. “But the major tourist attractions in areas of the
city where tourists come are okay. From a visitor’s standpoint,
what you experience is 100 percent.”
While the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors
Bureau heads to Mexico, Canada and Europe to encourage travel to
New Orleans and the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and
Tourism continues their ad campaign, Brennan is doing his best to
build tourism from the bottom up. He is working on a pilot program,
reaching out to restaurants nationwide due to his national
reputation to encourage them to have their business meetings in New
Orleans. So far, he has attracted two, he said, one of which
consisted of 300 members.
“We’re at a point where we think this is a model that works and
we’re going to reach out to other industries,” Brennan said. “This
is grassroots at its best.” Getting past the second anniversary and
through hurricane season will help as well, he added.
“If we get past this hurricane season I’ve targeted Oct. 1 then
things should look a lot better,” Brennan said. “It will make more
visitors think about coming down.”