NEW ORLEANS — African-American business owners in Treme are concerned about their future.
Treme is known for being the birthplace of jazz, for its rich African-American history. It is American’s oldest African-American neighborhood. However, residents there say high prices and gentrification are wiping that out.
Judy Hill, who owns Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar was preparing for another night of music and entertainment Thursday. She cannot help but gather her items and look around her place with a somber attitude.
Soon, Hill will be welcoming guests at the Orleans Avenue location for the last time.
“We gotta leave,” Hill said. “We just got notice that we have to vacate.”
Hill said she is not alone. Other bars renting out space nearby are also getting the boot.
“I don’t know who’s going to get this place,” she said. “I really don’t care. I’m good with it. Win, lose or draw, I’ll be just fine, but the gentrification, it’s on and poppin’.”
The neighborhood Hill said she adores, home to the historic Carver Theater for African-American patrons and musicians, now feels foreign to her.
“The soul is dying,” she said. “It’s dying.”
Ralston Andry, who has lived in the neighborhood all his life, notices these changes everyday.
“All the newcomers coming into the neighborhood, you know, it makes me feel like they’re trying to push the people out,” Andry said.
Fred Johnson is the Executive Director of the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Foundation.
“It has to do with a new mindset of younger people,” Johnson explained. “We term them as millennials. They don’t want to be in the suburbs. And as a result of not being in the suburbs, that means they have to come to the center of the city.”
The urban appeal with a younger and different crowd, Johnson said, comes with a rise in housing value and different entertainment venues.
“There’s a lot of African-American bars that are being bought out,” Johnson said. “If they’re leasing them, the leases are coming to an end.”
Hill said she is not giving up. She is looking at different locations to call Ooh Poo Pah Doo bar home. Still, no matter how challenging the search may be, Hill said she’s staying in her community.
“I’ll move from here, but I’m going to fight to get very close,” she declared.