A handful of eager business owners in New Orleans's French Quarter on Sept. 16 removed plywood from store windows, cleaned up restaurant floors and hoped to see the city's main attraction revived. Mayor Ray Nagin said the historic district's business owners could return Saturday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina crippled the city on August 29.
But a few, like R.R. Lyon, wanted to get an early start. Lyon returned Sept. 15 to his French Quarter gallery, Lyon and Lyon Fine Art, and was using a drill to remove plywood early Friday, sweating in his white shirt in Louisiana's infamous heat and humidity. "We decided that if we are one of the first owners to open, then it would inspire others to do the same," said Lyon, who owns the gallery with his son Taylor. "The sooner we get this open, the sooner we will get back to normal life," he said. French Quarter business owners are proud of their neighborhood's lore and reputation and see its revival as essential to getting the city back on its feet. "It is the heart and soul of New Orleans," Lyon said.
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Steve Lessing hopes he can get power and gas soon so he can reopen the Redfish Grill, a seafood and creole restaurant on Bourbon Street. Lessing, the restaurant's general manager, had to throw food away, and three inches of water had flowed into the restaurant, which employs 150 people. Opening the restaurant and other French Quarter businesses "will help the morale of the city," he said as a generator provided some electricity in the restaurant, which smelled of bleach and other cleaning products. Most of the French Quarter, which lies on higher ground than the rest of the city, was not flooded. "The French Quarter made it," Lessing said. "When we get back open, please come over."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005