"When other restaurants around us would close during Essence, they'd call it a 'black out.' They'd close because they didn't want to deal with black customers." Philipe La Mancusa, a chef who has worked in a variety of French Quarter restaurant kitchens and bars, recalled blunt workplace conversations about race dating back decades.Word of large crowds moving through the Quarter would travel from restaurant to restaurant via phone, La Mancusa said.The accusations continued even after Walk-On's posted photos of "severe flooding" at the restaurant to Facebook, along with the message, "Our sister locations, Happy's Irish Pub and The Rampart Room, are still open while we fix the floors at Walk-On's." "Walk-ons blaming Essence closure on repairs necessitated by plumbing caused flood," Jon Kardon wrote on Twitter, under the handle @NOLAdevil. #Closed For Essence." Businesses other than Walk-On's that were closed for the weekend came under fire, thanks in part to the #Closed For Essence social media hashtag.They included Domenica, the award-winning Italian restaurant operated by John Besh and Alon Shaya; the French Quarter music club One Eyed Jacks; and Little Gem Saloon, a restaurant and music club located across the street from Walk-On's.Any restaurant that is closing (during Essence) is generalizing a whole group of people.
(Photo by Maggie Andresen, | The Times-Picayune) Last Wednesday, a construction crew began repairing the wood floors at Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar New Orleans, the Poydras Street location of the Louisiana chain.Others began doing the same, including during Bayou Classic.The #Closed For Essence hashtag was born during this period, as was the practice of calling out restaurants perceived to be discriminating against black customers.But the phenomenon, particularly in the French Quarter, is as old as Essence itself, as are accusations that local hotels, restaurants, bars and other businesses treat black Essence attendees differently than they do white patrons who flood the Quarter during Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras and other large tourist events.Similar patterns emerge during Bayou Classic, the annual football game between the historically black colleges Grambling State and Southern University, which only adds fuel to the fire.