Gaslamp business owners hoped the good times would roll right into their restaurants on Fat Tuesday to give a jolt to an industry that's lost tens of thousands of jobs, but it was a mellow Mardi Gras 2021 because of COVID-19.
Randy Wagener, a partner at the Smoking Gun, said this year is completely different. The restaurant's capacity is about 5% of normal this year, because celebrations at the business on the corner of 6th Avenue and Market Street -- along with all other local restaurants -- are limited this year to outdoor-only dining and drinking because of the public health order.
“We’ll take any holiday we can get now," Wagener said. "It’s just fun to break loose a bit and have a little normality."
Normally Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp brims with beads, beverages and boogying in the streets. While the block party was canceled this year, restaurants offering up specials and decorations to lure customers.
“I drove by Barleymash with some Mardi Gras pennants up, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! Something has Mardi Gras on it.’ Then a tiny tear came down my eye," said Laurel Mc Farlane, whose PR and event-productions company organizes the annual Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras celebration and other large-scale events.
“These holidays also started -- just so you know -- they were economic-engine drivers," McFarlane said. "The whole reason Mardi Gras happened was to drive traffic to the Gaslamp on the super slow Tuesday night. And that's why it was such a great holiday for the Gaslamp Quarter."
The Smoking Gun's Wagener concurs.
"Absolutely, it’s definitely huge for bars and restaurant staff,” Wagener said. “It contributes more shifts for them -- the front and back of the house. It’s economically a huge boost for them."
And the Gaslamp can use every little bit of a boost in the midst of a pandemic.