A sprinkling of restaurants and shops opened their doors for the first time in two months, welcoming a cautious vanguard of locals.
- by Ellis Anderson
A reminder if you're planning to visit: Please be especially mindful of our hospitality workers, culture bearers, and residents. If you love the Quarter, show some love to our peeps. You'll find guidelines to help protect them here.
Saturday, May 16
A few early birds settle in for breakfast service at Maspero's on Decatur and Toulouse streets.
Jackson Square, about 8:30am. Only one vendor had set up.
Plexiglass shield readings were offered by Little Fae Sway, set up and ready to go by 8:30 am. She and one other regular, Michael, the Realistic Mystic, were the only two folks set up in front of the cathedral early on.
Around noon, another artist appeared.
Louis K. Shabareck, Jr., AKA Dr. Joker, has been setting up on the Decatur side of the square through much of the shutdown. The sign lists some of his many occupations.
Just in time for lunch: the Hot Tamale man. "I love you, Bay-beeeee!"
The mostly empty square makes this block of Chartres Street bikeable again.
A smattering of shops were open on Saturday and Sunday. One shop owner told us that sales were comparable to a slow day in mid-August, the toughest time of year for Quarter businesses.
Then we ran into Clyde Casey. "Casey," is an artist (his bracelets made from forks are highly collectible in the city) and a musician. I first met him when we were both French Quarter street musicians in the late '70s He's best known for his enormous portable interactive percussion contraptions/sculptures that he pushes through the streets to the delight of all.
Casey's been sheltering in place since mid-March. On the first official day of reopening the city (Phase One), he came out briefly with a pared down rig, complete with face shield. The theme for the day was "Let the Essential Good Times Roll." He said he wanted to "reconnect with the streets of the Quarter on the initial day, to let it be known that The Energy has been there all through this p@nd@mmit!!"
Groups of bicyclists were more common than cars.
A few shops, like UAL on Chartres Street, had regular customers waiting their turn to go in.
This photo was taken earlier in the week, as the Napoleon House management worked on logistics for inside dining that will meet the new requirements. The upstairs, usually reserved for special events, will be open for dining as part of the plan. We were given no firm date ("soon") for opening the dining rooms, but in the meantime, fans can order for curbside pick-up. On Saturday, we treated ourselves to a muffuletta and a shrimp po-boy - both of which were even better than we remembered.
Also on Chartres Street, the crew at Pierre Maspero's announced their open status to passersby.
The sparsely peopled Royal Street served as a romantic backdrop for this pair of newlyweds.
This tiny shop on the 400 block of Royal sandwiched between two large neighbors. The yellow building on the right was the first New Orleans residence of Tennessee Williams.
Most of the Bourbon Street sightseers stayed in their vehicles.
When people spotted us photographing, they often waved.
Bourbon and Toulouse streets.
The 600 block of Bourbon Street
Traditionally the busiest intersection in the French Quarter, at Bourbon and St. Peter streets.
Uncle Louie is a French Quarter fixture, providing Instagram ops by freezing in place mid-step while "walking" his toy dog, Little Willie. We found him by the Rouse's at Royal and St. Peter, proudly showing off Willie's protection gear.
Michael, the Realistic Mystic, started off the morning in Jackson Square, but by early afternoon, had relocated to Pirate's Alley.
Ready for Memorial Day at Royal and St. Ann streets.
The 800 block of Royal Street.
On Decatur Street, a fashion statement.
Late in the week, film crews were spotted in the Quarter, along with rumors that a public service announcement with Harry Connick, Jr. was being produced.
Saturday at dusk, we walked through the square. The park was closed off and we paused to watch a masked film crew working inside, finishing the afternoon's shoot. One familiar-looking man removed his mask briefly to address an applauding crew.
We don't know the story, but it's sure to be an interesting one.
After a day of showers, the mellow evening brought together friends and residents.
For the past few weeks, the Fleurty Girl store on Chartres Street has hosted a Josh Wingerter plywood triptych, part of a series he painted in the Quarter and on Frenchmen Street.
The intersection of St. Ann and Chartres streets, looking toward the river: St. Ann Street is normally a busy corridor between Bourbon and Café du Monde. The first evening of opening day, only a few pedestrians wandered through.
The intersection of St. Peter and Chartres streets looking toward Bourbon.
Chartres and Dumaine streets, looking toward the square at twilight.
Sunday, May 17
A family of Sunday morning explorers on Royal Street.
Another spontaneous wave on Royal, where the third-generation restaurant, Court of Two Sisters, had reopened.
The corner of Royal and St. Peter streets, early Sunday morning.
At Matthew Peck Gallery on Chartres Street, Clair Blue wore an evening gown to celebrate the occasion.
Artist Isabelle Jacobin on the balcony of her home/studio above Rouse's, at the corner of Royal and St. Peter streets. Pre-COVID, she often painted scenes capturing the lively street action below.
On the way home at the end of the day.
Residents dined above restaurant patrons at the French Market's Louisiana Pizza Kitchen.
Peace prevailed in the neighborhood.
See more photo albums, return to Hunkering Down blog or French Quarter Journal's home page.
Ellis Anderson first came to the French Quarter in 1978 with dreams of becoming a musician and writer. Eventually, she also became a silversmith and represented local artists as owner of Quarter Moon Gallery, with locations in the Quarter and Bay St. Louis, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Her book about the Bay's Katrina experience, "Under Surge, Under Siege," was published by University Press of Mississippi and won the Eudora Welty Book Prize in 2010. The French Quarter Journal joins The Shoofly Magazine, Bay St. Louis Living, as a sister digital publication of Ellis Anderson Media, LLC.
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