Business on Freret was complicated in part by a street project that dragged on for years beyond its original scope, but also by the pressure of a changing neighborhood. Major pre-Katrina businesses, like Freret Garden Center, also sold their land and gave way to newer construction, such as the building that houses the national Halal Guys and Blaze Pizza chains, and even parking became more hard to find as free spaces were converted to paid.The landlord says, yes, the rent was always supposed to go up. That was the point of all this. And by necessity, that means the small mom and pop businesses with neighborhood customer bases are going to be replaced by national chains with deep pockets oriented toward Tulane students and, very likely, Airbnbers. Again, all of this is by design. It's deliberate policy choice. It's presented as "laissez-faire" but that isn't really accurate.
“A lot of the regulars, I didn’t even see them anymore,” said Freret Po-Boy owner Myra Bercy in a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. “I guess some of them moved out of the neighborhood.”
Bercy said she struggled in recent years to make her rent payments, and they continued to go up. By January, her rent would have been nearly double what she originally paid when the business opened, so she closed for good the last week of October.
“The combination of all of that put me in a position where I was not making enough to stay in business,” Bercy said.
Bercy said she is unsure whether she will try to open another restaurant elsewhere, as closing the business left her in debt. In the meantime, she said, she believes the city should think of ways to continue supporting longtime small business owners as the economy of New Orleans begins to change.The city has already made its choice, though.
“The city needs to do something about this, I feel,” Bercy said. “In New Orleans we have a lassiz faire way of doing business, where it makes a little easier for the biz owners dealing with landlord-tenant situation.
“When people come from out of state, they don’t have the same respect for our culture,” she continued. “To a lot of people, the things I did might have meant a lot. But to them, it doesn’t really mean anything. We were just small time.”