‘Reopen our city. Let it prosper’

Last week, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she doesn’t want any large events or festivals to return until 2021.

NEW ORLEANS — Sunday’s paper displayed a tragic sign of the toll COVID-19 has taken on New Orleans with eight pages of obituaries. Just a few bylines away in The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate was another display of how it’s affected our city, as business owners advocated for opening the economy back up.

Several New Orleans business owners took out a full-page ad in the newspaper, asking elected officials to reopen the city’s economy by May 1. These business owners said they want decisions to be made both with health and the economy in mind. 

“Reopen our city. Let it prosper,” the ad reads. 

“This is not meant to be a criticism. The situation is dire. We know decisions are difficult,” said Franco Valobra, owner of Valobra Jewelry on Royal Street. “We need to do something, always keeping in mind the lives are very important, but the destruction of the businesses in the city, the destruction of the income for families, employment, jobs — it’s catastrophic.”

Last week, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she doesn’t want any large events or festivals to return until 2021, concerned the events could undo all the effort to stop the spread.

“My recommendation is absolutely no large events such as French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest, even Essence Festival (in 2020),” Cantrell said. 

That recommendation is why Valobra joined other New Orleans business owners to pay for the ad. They’re worried the city won’t survive without these major events.

“In my opinion, the damage will be irreversible,” Valobra said. 

The letter reads “Staying closed is not a plan.” They’re asking for other solutions that would allow New Orleans businesses to reopen in less than two weeks.

“The use of masks, controlled amount of people in certain spaces, temperature taking, there are actions that could be implemented,” Valobra said.

Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was concerned for the tourism industry too, but he said lifting restrictions too soon would have consequences.

“How are we going to get tourists to Louisiana, if we have cases spiking here in greater number than they’re spiking elsewhere? They’re going to choose to go elsewhere with their conventions. They’re going to choose to take their vacations elsewhere,” the governor said. 

As of Sunday, Mayor Cantrell is not refusing permits for events planned for the fall. French Quarter Fest is set for October, but some big events like Jazz Fest and Essence Fest have already announced won’t happen this year.

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