Event venues sit empty as COVID guidelines restrict Mardi Gras 2021


The ballroom at Sugar Mill venue stays empty since the start of the pandemic. The venue will not be hosting any Mardi Gras balls this year, in accordance with the modified Phase 2 guidelines set in place by the city. Photo courtesy of Larissa Jama.

Domonique Tolliver

No parades. No balls. No parties. At a time when the hospitality industry in New Orleans is normally thriving, businesses are scrambling to survive within the city’s COVID-19 guidelines.

Orleans Parish is currently in a modified version of Phase 2, according to the restrictions posted by the city. In this phase, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, with masking and social distancing required and outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people, with masking and social distancing.

Kameelah Isby is the Multi-Service Center Manager for Gallier Hall. She said that the event space and the city gets a large chunk of revenue from Mardi Gras events.

“Gallier Hall hosts events for Mardi Gras such as the Mayor’s Ball. The absence of not only the revenue but also those traditions has been devastating this year” said Isby.

The Sugar Mill continues to lose revenue daily, according to manager Larissa Jama, and the cancelation of Mardi Gras season will take an even bigger toll on its budget that has suffered since the beginning of shutdown in March 2020.

Jama said that The Sugar Mill would not be holding any of its usual Mardi Gras events this Mardi Gras season, which would typically include krewe events before and after the parades.

Isby said Gallier Hall is not hosting any events this Mardi Gras season not just because the season was canceled, but because the building is closed to the public under the current restrictions.

“Until we can move into advanced phases, our hands, like the rest of many of the businesses in this city, are tied,” Jama said.

The Sugar Mill did have financial back up plans in the event that Mardi Gras did not happen but Gallier Hall did not.According to Isby, since Gallier Hall is city-owned, the venue does not operate in a manner where it is self-sustaining. However, Jama said that The Sugar Mill would be able to cover the loss with more events.

“During a normal Mardi Gras season, The Sugar Mill would be hosting various events, for example, corporate events, trade shows, weddings, etc., not necessarily related to Mardi Gras. If we had lost any of our regular Mardi Gras Krewe events, we would book those times with other types of events,” said Jama.

Jama said that both Mardi Gras and private events that were canceled due to the COVID-19 closures have rebooked for later this year or next year.

Isby said that Gallier Hall has remained open for gatherings when permitted by the current phase but have adjusted their procedures to remain compliant with all guidelines.

Isby and Jama said they have high hopes for the Mardi Gras 2022 season.

“We are all in this together and trying to hold on until it is safe to reopen,” said Jama.