The Pelican team has been traveling the state since March, collecting stories of those who have been harmed by the state’s COVID-19 shutdown. Every Louisianan knows at least one person who has lost their livelihood due to the shutdown, and these stories deserve to be told and heard by everyone in our state.
We recently traveled to Leesville and met with Jaymie and Sam Wright, a husband and wife team who spent years building two successful bars from the ground up. Jaymie and Sam are lifelong Leesville residents, and they are happily married with three children and are expecting their first grandchild soon.
After founding Club Zydeco more than a decade ago, the Wrights grew the bar into a Leesville institution. The success they achieved with Club Zydeco allowed them to open their second bar, Serendipity Lounge, in 2019. From Leesville natives to military members living in nearby Fort Polk, Jaymie and Sam’s bars served as important venues for residents across the community to meet and celebrate.
“It wasn’t just about us trying to make money,” Jaymie said. “We wanted to provide something to better our community. And now, that’s gone, and it’s sad.”
The bars, which were 90 percent of the Wright family’s income, were shut down initially in March and reopened briefly when the state allowed bars to resume operating. However, the state’s new restrictions were simply too harsh to allow the bars to be profitable. Because of this and the mortgages, utilities, and other bills they had to continue paying, the Wrights were forced to make the difficult decision to shut both bars down permanently.
Serendipity was sold back to the bank, and the Wrights are currently renting Club Zydeco to a restaurant franchise in hopes of keeping the property afloat. Aside from the financial hardships they have faced, Sam said the shutdown has also taken a toll on his mental and emotional health. That’s why he is now turning his focus to speaking up for other bar owners in Louisiana.
“There are a lot of other businesses out there we’re fighting for,” Sam said while holding back tears. “I don’t want this happening to them. Our government needs to open back up, or help these small businesses that they are destroying right now.”
The Wrights and countless other business owners around our state are still struggling greatly, and they need our support. Help spread the word about the damage being done to bars across Louisiana today by watching this story below and sharing it with three friends. Click here to view all the Faces of the Shutdown stories.