Downtown hotels provide respite from the storm

    The 144-room hotel, The Watermark, is at 150 Third St. in downtown Baton Rouge. (File photo)

    Hotels in downtown Baton Rouge did not lose power during Hurricane Ida, allowing them to comfortably host packed houses of evacuees, first responders and their own staff. 

    The Watermark Hotel was busy but was generally able to do business normally, says Larry Tingle, the hotel’s food and beverage director, who shortly before noon today was behind the bar at The Gregory, the hotel’s restaurant. 

    “We’re full, and some of the staff that worked last night stayed,” he says. 

    Shameika Harper, in town from Charlotte for a weekend event, rode out Ida at The Watermark. She says she was concerned when she heard the wind howling overnight but not overly worried for her own safety, though she feared flooding might make it hard to get back home. 

    “I knew it was coming, and I felt like we were in a safe place,” Harper says. 

    Though Baton Rouge, given the storm’s projected track, wasn’t considered an ideal escape location, those who were downtown fared OK. A few CBD lunch spots were busy Monday, and while the majority of businesses were closed, most appeared to have electricity. 

    Hotel Indigo filled up on Friday, which is not unusual lately, says general manager Barry Gambold.

    “We’ve had a very strong summer, and that’s not usually a strong period,” he says. 

    Baton Rouge hotels experienced a flood of both last-minute cancellations and bookings, as weekend guests changed their plans while others sought shelter from the storm. Gambold says Hotel Indigo was full of evacuees who would be leaving over the next couple days, making room for first responders and officials who might stay for a month or two. 

    Gambold says he’s booked up through Sept. 15. After the August 2016 floods, some FEMA officials stayed for a year, he adds.

    “Starting today, tomorrow and Wednesday, we’re full of support groups [for hurricane recovery],” he says.