That Sinking Feeling: Once-thriving businesses near Avondale Shipyard are now struggling to survive

This article was published in The Times-Picayune on July 24, 2011. 

Darcy Adams can’t believe she used to make enough in tips to go shoe-shopping. She misses those days now.


With more bills and past-due notices arriving every day, Adams, 49, looks stressed as she lights another cigarette and surveys the bar. It’s happy hour, but with just four men in the place, two poking at billiard balls in the corner and two nursing beers at the bar, the dozens of empty barstools underscore just how dead it really is.

“I can’t sleep at night. I can’t pay my bills. I’m stressing so bad,” said Adams, of Waggaman. “This place used to be packed. Now, I’m lucky if I get 10 customers.”

As the bartender at O’Reilly’s in Bridge City for the past 10 years, Adams is among the hundreds of people in the Avondale Shipyard area who have seen their business plummet in the past year. Since Northrop Grumman announced last July it would close the shipyard by 2013, the yard’s 5,000 workers have been laid off or left to await their fate. The fallout, for the local businesses that rely on their patronage, has been devastating.

“Come 2013, I’ll be 55, unemployed, and unemployable,” said Rob Laborde, 53, who has worked at the shipyard for the past 22 years. “You gotta keep all your money now. You gotta count every dime you got.” Read more of this post