For better or worse, New Orleans economy is dependent on tourism.
As we’ve discussed previously on this show, critics say a tourist-dependent economy traps people in low-paid jobs. Tourism boosters say without the revenue generated by tourists we’d all be paying way more in taxes and our cost of living would be through the roof.
Whichever of these positions you subscribe to, undeniably the heart of the New Orleans tourist industry – and therefore New Orleans’ vital finance generator – is the French Quarter.
The French Market Corporation is all too aware of this tourist-dependence. Under the leadership of Executive Director, Leslie Alley, they’d like the French Quarter to be a place locals visit too. Not just because it is, after all, quintessentially New Orleans, but because for a large chunk of the year the heat keeps tourists away and locals are the Quarter’s only source of revenue.
As their name suggests, the French Market Corporation operates the French Market. But their jurisdiction also includes the Pontalba buildings, all of the riverside retail stores, and riverside restaurants, from Cafe du Monde to Gazebo Café. It’s a big chunk of real estate and accounts for a significant percentage of French Quarter revenue.
There aren’t many places in the French Quarter that tourists and locals go. But there is one place most tourists go, and most locals have been. And that’s Pat O’Brien’s bar.
Pat O’Brien’s is the home of the Hurricane. They have fountains of fire in the courtyard. And in their piano lounge they have dueling pianos. Two piano players sit at matching copper-topped grand pianos, playing together or trading off, playing requests, and encouraging audience participation. It’s a singular kind of skill that combines musicianship and live improv entertainment.
For 25 years one of these entertaining piano players has been Henrietta Alves.
There’s no doubt, New Orleans wouldn’t be the city it is without the French Quarter. And the French Quarter, as attractive as it is architecturally, wouldn’t have the charm, character, and reputation it has without the people who live and work there. Henrietta Alves has contributed to decades of life in the Quarter, as both a resident and a musician. And Leslie Allie’s contributions to the French Market, and the properties the French Market Corporation operates, will be felt for decades to come.
And you can check out more lunchtime conversation with New Orleans entertainers Andrew Duhon and Henrietta’s daughter, Musa.