When a major portion of the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed Oct. 12, not only were three construction workers killed, but residents in the area were forced to evacuate and businesses were forced to close.
Because of two large cranes that weren’t demolished until Oct. 20, as well as the building itself being unstable, it’s questionable when residents in the evacuation zone will be able to return to their homes and when life in the area will return to some sort of “normal.” City officials have provided few answers and business owners and their employees have been left in flux during this tense time.
The most notable business that has been affected has been the famed Saenger Theater. Located right next to the Hard Rock Hotel at 1111 Canal St., the theater was forced to cancel scheduled showings of “Wicked” that was set to run the week after the collapse. According to the theater’s Facebook page, other shows are being rescheduled to the Mahalia Jackson theater on a week-by-week basis and tickets for future shows, at the theater, appear to still be on sale through the Saenger Theater website. On Monday, The New Orleans Advocate reported that Saenger house manager Kerri Brunson filed suit seeking damages from the proponents of the Hard Rock construction project. Neither the Saenger nor the City of New Orleans has made any announcements as to when the theater may be able to reopen and resume a normal schedule.
Another business in the area that has been dealing with the repercussions of the Hard Rock collapse is restaurant Palm and Pine. The three-month-old eatery, which is described on its website as a progressive and soulful dining experience and an ambassador of fine food and drink, is located at 308 N. Rampart St., right in the middle of “ground zero” of the collapse. Chef and co-owner Jordan Herndon and co-owner Amarys Herndon explained that business at the restaurant has been day-to-day since the disaster.
The Herdons have been taking the struggle one day at a time and say their employees have been sticking with them during the uncertainty.
“We haven’t lost any staff yet, but business has been affected, which obviously affects everything,” Amarys said.
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They have been forced to close on six service days of the last eight, and everything seems to be up-in-the-air at any given moment as they wait on news from the city about what their business day will hold. Because the street has been blocked, they have been forced to close on the last two Saturdays and Sundays which has cut into their business significantly, especially since the restaurant just started offering brunch on Sundays.
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The Herndons expressed frustration at losing some of the momentum they had been able to build since they opened in July. Not only is regular daily business hit-or-miss, but deliveries have been blocked multiple times since the disaster due to street closures. Foot traffic has been blocked as well on multiple days, which is a major source of the restaurant’s income.
“Krewe of Boo would have been a big night for business, but we were forced to close due to the planned demolition and the closure of North Rampart,” Jordan said.
On the days they discovered that they would be closed, the Herndons were forced to call customers who made reservations and cancel. They also lament that they were closed on Saturday, a day city officials thought they’d be able to bring down the cranes. That didn’t happen until Sunday.
Palm and Pine is back to normal business hours and owners hope the Hard Rock collapse won’t bring any more interruptions to their service.
“We’re closed every Tuesday, but we resume normal hours Wednesday and we just want to let people now that we’re still open,” Amarys said.
Business hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (brunch hours) and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.