BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – For Baton Rouge business owners, 2021 is looking all too familiar.
Randy Wesley, the owner of the Pastime restaurant and lounge, says 2021 is proving to be just as much of a financial hit as 2020.
“We have nothing to look forward to nothing to pin our hopes on right now,” Wesley said.
At his Baton Rouge restaurant, there’s plenty of empty tables and chairs, and Wesley is one of the thousands of Louisiana business owners still hurting.
2021 seemed like the bright spot on the horizon but it’s only gotten worse as more events have been canceled, putting his finances in more trouble.
“It’s like somebody pulled the rug out from under our feet,” Wesley said. “We were counting on the spring concerts [and] Mardi Gras. We’ve basically maxed out all of our credit cards [and] used every line of credit we’ve had.”
He is far from the only one. As the state continues to see heightened COVID cases and potentially more restrictions, the local economy is suffering.
“At this point, we are down to about 20,000 jobs lost,” Andrew Fitzgerald, from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber says. “It’s the people living month to month, they’re the ones whose income is at risk because a quarter of those jobs are still gone.”
Fitzgerald says 15,000 of those lost jobs are from leisure and hospitality businesses, like bars and restaurants. He says the economy won’t be able to thrive if we continue on this path.
“It would be catastrophic,” Fitzgerald said. “This is preventing people from buying houses, from buying new cars.”
For now, business owners like Wesley are just trying to stay afloat and hope this year he won’t have to be one of the thousands of businesses forced to close their doors because of COVID-19.