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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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‘Nonstop traffic’: Mardi Gras’ economic impact on local businesses

The+Mardi+Gras+season+causes+local+business+sales+to+surge%2C+but+also+presents+risks+of+dealing+with+Mardi+Gras+partiers.
Zach Kempin
The Mardi Gras season causes local business’ sales to surge, but also presents risks of dealing with Mardi Gras partiers.

Mardi Gras is a crucial time of year for the New Orleans economy. According to a study conducted by Tulane economics professor Toni Weiss, the Mardi Gras celebration brought around $891 million to New Orleans in 2023. 

Mardi Gras is “one of the strongest times of the year for us,” Chris Hummel, owner of Mushroom New Orleans, said. The Mushroom is a local record store and smoke shop Tulane students frequent. “We do maybe quadruple the business on a Mardi Gras shift than we would do on a regular shift,” he said.

Empanola, a local empanada shop, also experiences high demand during Mardi Gras. “We hit record-breaking sales during Mardi Gras on the Saturday right before Fat Tuesday,” manager Heather Rabossa said. “I think we hit $6,000 in sales Saturday.”

Hummel said late nights are essential to good business during Mardi Gras.“Normally, we’re open till midnight, but during Mardi Gras,” he said, “we’ll close at four or five in the morning.”

“It was nonstop traffic,” Rabossa said. “We had three times the normal staff and some of our owners kept having to come and pitch in for us; the workers couldn’t keep it up ourselves.”

Partying students pose a challenge to many local businesses during Mardi Gras. “The biggest challenge during Mardi Gras is crowd control and dealing with people because a lot of these kids have been drinking and partying,” Hummel said.

“It’s definitely been a lot of cleaning up after incredibly drunk people,” Rabossa said. “Cleaning throw-up out of the bathroom or dealing with even lower tips than normal.” 

“Dealing with inebriated customers” is also a challenge at the Insomnia Cookies on Maple Street, according to employee Deshaun Douglas. 

Increased demand causes some local businesses to get creative. Danielle Sutton, owner of St. James Cheese Company, said that customer traffic during Mardi Gras is “chaotic” and “unpredictable.”

To capitalize on the increased demand, Hummel brings in new products. “We do Mardi Gras print hoodies specifically for Mardi Gras every year, and we usually sell those out,” he said. “We will bring in Mardi Gras beads. Not like the ones you catch off floats — slightly fancier nicer ones that you might buy for $3 or $4.” 

“We started doing catering for floats last year where people bring pre-packaged lunch boxes to bring on the floats with them when they’re riding,” Sutton said. “And that’s been successful.” The initiative brought in around $1,500 from a new catering initiative during Mardi Gras in 2023, Sutton said. 

According to Sutton, their Uptown shop had a 6% increase in sales during Mardi Gras and the downtown shop had a 24% increase.

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