Hurricane Ida latest setback for new restaurants trying to open

Already facing supply and labor shortages caused by COVID-19, new restaurants trying to open in Baton Rouge are now dealing with added frustrations in the wake of Hurricane Ida. 

Bistro Byronz’s new location in the former White Star Market space was set to open mid-September. However, the hurricane pushed plans back to the end of the month, says Emelie Alton, CEO of Byronz Restaurant Family.

That’s because the primary focus since Ida hit has been on their operating businesses—Bistro Byronz and Pizza Byronz in Willow Grove—trying to find products, food and liquor, much of which comes out of New Orleans, where Ida caused major damage. 

Scott Higgins is currently renovating his wine bar, Blend, but is still seeing supply shortages, which he thinks will last through at least the end of the year. Now, he has even more problems due to the storm, he says.

Most food wholesalers are either out of everything or giving to relief efforts, and drivers are displaced and unable to deliver goods. 

“Nothing’s changed,” Higgins says. “If anything, it’ll get worse because of the storm.”

Higgins has not set an opening date for Blend. He was hoping to be done by now, he says, but the issues are out of his control. 

Any tools needed to continue the buildout of Social Coffee’s new downtown location are hard to come by, owner Dillon Farrell says. The cost of construction supplies has gone up, he says, as a result of COVID, but it is now even harder to get ahold of them. 

“We saw issues with gas in Baton Rouge,” he says, “and if you go to Walmart, it’s hard to find bread. It’s similar if you go to Home Depot and try to get two-by-fours or sheetrock. It’s a weird time.”

Many people are repairing homes and businesses, he says, and not just in Baton Rouge. Supplies from the area are being brought to southeast Louisiana. 

“As a business owner who was mostly not affected physically,” he says, “you’ve got to be kind of OK with it and realize you have to wait your turn.”

Restaurants have already been facing supply and labor shortages for months because of the pandemic. 

Alton and her team ordered heat lamps for the kitchen that were supposed to ship in three to four weeks, she says. It’s been eight. Meanwhile, Higgins has been waiting on furniture for Blend for seven months. 

“We just shake our heads and ask what’s next,” Higgins says.