I have the distinction of having passed the two-week period following my second shot that means I am officially vaccinated. I do not feel any different, unless you count the slight easing of tension that knowing I am unlikely to contract or spread the virus brings me. I do count that.
Recently, restrictions on restaurants and bars have been relaxed in our fair city. Restaurants are able to serve more people and bars can stay open longer. I am involved in the industry indirectly as a writer and through my involvement with Chef’s Brigade. It is an incredible relief to see things opening up. I see folks who are starting to breathe again on the industry side and I see people out at night at neighborhood restaurants. We’ve all been waiting for this for a long time.
But there’s always uncertainty about how things will go. Some predict that we are going to be more careful in general going forward. The idea is that a lot of people are going to continue to socially isolate and thus not dine out as often as they might.
Then there are those who predict a boom in dining once the situation allows. I am naturally inclined towards that position, which relies on the idea that many people have wanted to dine out over the last year and are chomping at the bit to get back to it. As I am in that number, I do not feel entirely comfortable assessing things.
I feel pretty comfortable having driven around New Orleans for the last several weeks that there are a lot of people wanting to dine out and generally enjoy themselves. I am comfortable in part because lots of people are getting vaccinated and we seem to be doing well at containing things here.
My guess is that this summer is going to be the best summer restaurants in New Orleans have seen in decades. It’s normally a dead season, because there aren’t as many tourists in town when the weather is hot and humid. But I think we’re going to see tourists by July or August as people all over the world become more comfortable with traveling.
Tourists are nice, of course, but the real test is whether locals will return to our habitual dining customs. I believe that New Orleanians will be out in even larger numbers over the next six months. This is good if you are a restaurateur, it is bad if you are expecting to walk up to a restaurant without making a reservation.
I also expect to hear from some of you over the next months about how a restaurant was too loud, or too crowded or otherwise unsatisfactory because they were too busy. I will sympathize with those of you who complain, but I will also feel a lot better about the state of the industry when I start getting those emails.
Let’s hope we can all continue to be responsible humans and honor the still-necessary restrictions on social distancing and wearing masks so that whatever momentum we have now can continue.