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Business along Shreveport parade routes have mixed feeling on Mardi Gras

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTBS) -

City of Shreveport workers and inmates put out gates along Shreveport- Barksdale Highway days before the Krewe of Centaur's 2014 parade is set to roll. They are planning ahead, just like bar owner Randy Comer at What's On Tap.

"[We'll] Push the pool table out of the way," he explained. "We'll put a rope over there and put some rollers right here so over here ther's another bar set up."

What's On Tap has poured beers off of the parade route for 15 years and stays open each time the floats pass by.

"Mardi Gras is basically around having a good time and drinking and we try to provide that," Comer said. "We hire a lot more people than normal... It's good for me, it's good for the city. It's good for my employees. Everybody that works for me makes more money that day."

Comer said each Saturday the Krewes of Centaur and Gemini roll, his bar and daiquiri shop he owns next door make as much money as 10 regular nights.

The Shreveport Bossier Tourism and Convention Bureau studied the economic impact of the city's two largest parades back in 2007. It found more than $32 million were thrown to area businesses during the two weekends the krewes rolled. With about $17 million of that coming from people who live out of town.

The study found overnighters were responsible for 80 percent, with each adult spending more than $150. The other 20 percent comes from folks who drove in for the day and each adult spent more than $35.

"When you look at Mardi Gras spending, it's not just king cakes and beads," said Chris Jay with the Tourism and Convention Bureau. "It's also taking a group out to eat. or renting a venue to have a ball. There's a lot of auxiliary spending around Mardi Gras."

The Tourism and Convention Bureau works on a new study this year that will incorporate more Mardi Gras parades.

There are five in total in the study—including the Krewe of Harambee that runs through downtown Shreveport, although downtown businesses might not benefit directly from the parades.

"You would think with thousands of people around, you would have a booming day at your business but that's typically not the case," said Liz Swaine of the Downtown Development Authority. "When people come to parades, they're coming to catch candy, see their friends go by on a float or dance to the music. They're not there to shop or see a movie."

Swaine said several of the businesses chose to close on the days the parades pass by so they don't lose a lot of money.

While she thinks downtown is a great location for city wide events, Swaine said the infrastructure could not handle a parade as large as Gemini or Centaur.

"It would be more challenging," she said. "There wouldn't be enough space for all the people who want to view the parades."

The open road of Clyde Fant Parkway is the perfect place for them. Even though there are no businesses on that part of the parade route, Jay said there is still an economic impact.

"People are grilling. They're barbecuing, making gumbos," he said. ‘On the other hand, they had to buy those ingredients somewhere. There is some economic activity, even though it's not being in a restaurant on parade day. They are obviously having to buy those supplies somewhere."

Comer loves that the parades run right in front of his bar, especially during a slower time of the year.

"We're coming out of the cold season," Comer explained. "Everybody trying to do their, 'I'm going to the gym and trying to lose weight kind of thing.' Which is great, but now, they kind of bust out, 'Hey, I want to have a good time with my friends and do some drinking.'"

The study conducted by the Tourism Bureau in 2007 tried to gauge how many people did show up for the two largest parades, but can only give a broad range—between 300,000 and almost 800,000 people.

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