Basically, Bourbon Street has always been the "worst it's ever been" and it's probably never going to change — which may be good or bad, depending on how you feel about go-cups, shitty T-shirt shops and terrible karaoke bands. Richard A. Webster of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune ruminates about the state of the tourist zoo, positing it's not likely Bourbon Street will ever change, even despite the recent smoking ban, possible restrictions on live music, and a very hypothetical open container ban.
Bourbon Street being like a urine-scented time capsule of pre-Katrina tourist sensibility — before visitors discovered the Bywater — is corroborated by Tulane University historian Richard Campanella, the preeminent expert on New Orleans neighborhoods and geography:
You have for the past 30 to 35 years an amazingly, relatively stable place ... The phenomena that you see on any given night -- the people moving through the streets, doors and windows thrown open — is remarkably similar to where it was just before Katrina, and in the late '90s and early '90s, and late '80s and early '80s ... In a city whose future is hard to predict, I actually have a pretty easy time predicting the foreseeable future of Bourbon Street in the next 10 or 20 or 30 years. There are a lot of people trying to make changes — City Council might pass noise ordinances that would affect clubs. There's neighborhood groups who want a "more authentic" experience on the tourist thoroughfare. There's others who want a bigger variety of retail besides T-shirt shops (good luck, since the same guy owns pretty much all of them). But it seems like Bourbon Street might always be the worst place in New Orleans, despite anyone's best efforts. Campanella continues:
Now if you talk to any French Quarter (neighborhood group) they're probably going to say that it's worse than ever. But I can show you headlines from late 1940s where (they) are saying things are worse than ever on Bourbon Street. So we've been saying that things are getting worse for a long time. To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused: That's what I love about Bourbon Street, man. The more the rest of New Orleans changes, the more it stays the same.