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Hospitality Industry Bracing For Impact After Jazzfest Cancelation

A worker hauls trash outside Galatoire's in the French Quater. New Orleans, Louisiana. May 26, 2020.
Patrick Madden
A worker hauls trash outside Galatoire's in the French Quater. New Orleans, Louisiana. May 26, 2020.

The news that this fall’s Jazzfest would be postponed once again didn’t just disappoint music fans — the cancellation sent shockwaves throughout New Orleans’ tourism and hospitality industry which had hoped to springboard back into action this fall.

After the cancellation Mayor LaToya Cantrell took to Twitter Sunday night, calling the decision by the festival "appropriate, but really disappointing."

The financial repercussions of the cancellation could be enourmous. WDSU reported that in 2019, about 475,000 people attended Jazzfest, and the event generated nearly $400 million for the city.

A large majority of the money Jazzfest generates inevitably goes into the hospitality and service industry, one of the cities hardest hit sectors during the pandemic. Out-of-town visitors usually flood New Orleans hotels, restaurants and bars during the festival.

Lefty Parker, owner of Euclid Records in the Bywater, was uncertain if the October Jazzfest would have boosted his store's sales.

"At this point, I can no longer predict anything businesswise for us," said Parker.

Parker said that the festival usually brings international customers into the store looking for New Orleans records to buy. However, with international travel still regulated, he was unsure if he would see an influx this year.

The 1896 O'Malley House, an eight-bedroom bed and breakfast in Midcity, saw half of their reserved rooms for Jazzfest cancel their reservations Monday morning, said Brett Bayer, a representative for the House.

Richard Horner, owner of Blue Giant Chinese Restaurant, had not begun to accept reservations for the two weekends in October but was eager to see the WuTang Clan perform with the Soul Rebels and see his restaurant get a boost in sales.

Horner said the restaurant uncharacteristically bought advertising space on pamphlets distributed to hotels in the French Quarter, figuring that there was going to be "a massive uptick in tourism because of the festivals getting crammed into the fall."

"Now, it kind of seems like that will be a waste of money," said Horner.

In a press release, Jazzfest said that purchased tickets for the October dates would roll over the purchase into the next year's event and that anyone who purchased tickets for the Wednesday show featuring the Rolling Stones will be automatically refunded.

The Jazzfest cancelation is likely to cause other festivals and events to reconsider their planned openings. On Monday, the Red Dress Run announced it was also canceling its annual event on Saturday due to the large number of cases in the area.

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