I like some of this tacky stuff and also like the welcoming attitude for our millions of tourists of having many kinds of shops.I do think some of the shopkeepers could try a little harder to find a new niche, rather than crowding more of the same on doorways and on racks with nuclear-level lit interiors and blasting Cajun music across the Quarter. HOWEVER, I agree with a friend of mine interviewed recently in this blog who think incentives and marketing assistance to find new niches may work better than a crackdown, especially one that seems uneven in its focus on certain retailers.
This article makes some very good points here although I might suggest that the author’s comment about “there is little reason to believe they will be replaced by wine cellars or art galleries” is a light slap and one that has no basis in reality, as art galleries do exist in the Quarter, as well as some of our city’s finest antique stores. The culture of our city includes those things and just as some of our loveliest restaurants and best bookstores are found in our city center, those others can and will be found here too.
While a small store owner like Azemas would have to carefully calculate the number of New Orleans Saints shirts he could display in his storefront window when the Saints kick-off their first home game this September, large nearby retailers such as Walgreen’s or H&M can stock rack after rack of New Orleans themed gear without any fear of crossing the 35 percent threshold.
Certainly, no one wants to live in a city overrun with tacky tourists shops, but as the residential population of the French Quarter shrinks, souvenirs are a retailer’s safest bet. Even if opponents of t-shirt shops succeed in getting a few shut down on Bourbon street, there is little reason to believe they will be replaced by wine cellars or art galleries.
Some charge that the attack on t-shirt shops is really an attempt to sanitize the French Quarter and push poor and middle-class people out. Many of the stores are owned by Asian immigrants, and they cater to lower- and middle-class tourists. As an example of zoning enforcement being applied unequally, business owners point to new shop Fleurty Girl. The locally-owned, upscale t-shirt boutique opened a French Quarter location after the 2011 ordinance went into effect—without any major objection from the VCPORA.