April 5 (Bloomberg) -- “Ever since the Saints won the Super Bowl people have stopped asking if the streets of New Orleans are still full of water,” said Ted Brennan, whose family owns Brennan’s in the French Quarter. “You can’t imagine how important that game was. People are coming back, eating in the restaurants, and ordering good wines again.”
The last time I spoke with Ted and his brother Jimmy was after Katrina hit in 2005 and destroyed vast quantities of restaurant wine, mainly from heat spoilage after the electricity went out.
On the night after Katrina blew through, Jimmy Brennan and his chef Lazone Randolph kept a vigil with loaded pistols to ward off looters intent on robbing their 30,000 bottle wine cellar of its treasures -- all eventually condemned by the health department.
Antoine’s lost 16,000 bottles, Emeril’s 6,000.
“We’re back up to about 5,000 bottles now, which is $500,000 wholesale,” said Jimmy Brennan. “And prices are coming down fast. It used to be very difficult to buy 2005 and 2006 Bordeaux and Burgundy, but now there’s a lot of wine unsold because of the economy worldwide. They got to get rid of that wine.”
Jimmy, 68, says that the older New Orleans restaurants (Brennan’s opened in 1946 and moved to Royal Street in 1955) “held our own” after Katrina and during the recession. “Everybody’s ordering in the medium price range, with very few high notes.”
He prides himself on low markups. “You get a lot more bang for your buck in New Orleans than you would in New York, Boston, or other cities where they jack up the prices,” he said. “If I pay $10 for a wine wholesale, I charge the guest $30; if I pay $50 or more, I just double the price.”
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