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Mardi Gras boosts downtown Port Arthur businesses
PORT ARTHUR - by Lauren Huet
While people attending Mardi Gras in downtown Port Arthur get a boost in spirits, businesses are getting a boost in revenue. The City of Port Arthur says hundreds of thousands of people come to Port Arthur to celebrate Mardi Gras each year.
Janet Scott reopened her restaurant, the Party Connection, this week. She shut down the restaurant in 2011 because of her husband's health. Now that she's reopening, she didn't want to miss Mardi Gras. Scott says people stream in and out of the restaurant.
"Oh it's constant, constant, we have a little chimer, we have to turn it off,"
She says every Mardi Gras, business is booming.
"We missed one year, and we said we wasn't going to miss another," said Scott.
Terry Fontenot has owned property in downtown Port Arthur for 20 years.
"We had a restaurant at first, Java Co. Deli," said Fontenot, "and three years ago I opened this."
He says his thrift shop, Terry's Downtown Thrift Shop, is one of the few businesses downtown.
"When we came here in '98 there were 15 to 20 little businesses down here," said Fontenot.
Fontenot says the few remaining businesses in downtown Port Arthur depend on the crowds Mardi Gras draws, because the rest of the year the streets are empty.
"Everybody is doing the best they can to keep their heads above water, but we just don't see any growth," said Fontenot.
He says Mardi Gras is businesses' only bread and butter.
"For Mardi Gras only, there's no bread and butter down here during the week. That's why we're leaving," said Fontenot.
Fontenot is moving to Llano in April. He isn't leaving before Mardi Gras.
Scott says, before she temporarily closed her business, she had regular customers throughout the year.
"Oh yes, we have our regulars, city employees mainly, that comes in," said Scott, "and I imagine once they know we're reopened, they'll come back. Bring somebody with them."
She says this restaurant is her dream.
"So, it's just a thing that I had in my heart to do. To serve our community and downtown Port Arthur," said Scott.
Port Arthur's Mayor Pro-Tem, Robert Williamson, says the city has several efforts underway to repopulate and bring businesses back to downtown Port Arthur. The city is building city offices downtown, which it hopes will attract other businesses, like coffee shops, to serve those employees. Port Arthur City Council is also working on a long range plan to redevelop downtown. Williamson hopes council votes on a plan sometime this year.
He says the council created a tax reinvestment fund for downtown Port Arthur and plans to convert the city budget to a performance based budget.