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New Orleans Mayor Announces Phased Reopening Plan for Bars Beginning Saturday

Starting Saturday, October 3, bars can open for curbside service with outdoor and indoor seating to follow this month

New Orleans bars can now offer curbside service 

Starting Saturday, October 3, New Orleans will loosen some restrictions on restaurants and bars, allowing restaurants to increase indoor capacity and businesses licensed as bars to reopen for curbside service. Bars remain closed for on-premise consumption, but city officials laid out a plan that could allow them to open for indoor seating as early as October 31.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced New Orleans’s phase 3 in a press conference Thursday, three weeks after the rest of Louisiana entered phase 3. “As I’m sure you expected, it will differ slightly from the rest of the state,” said Cantrell. “There are three parts of our phase 3 — 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3. If we continue to make progress we’ll move right on.”

Phase 3.1, effective 6 a.m. October 3, allows restaurants to increase their indoor capacity to 75 percent and outdoor capacity to 100 percent, with masks and social distancing requirements in place. Bars, closed entirely since late July, will be allowed open for takeout and curbside service. In phase 3.2, which the city could enter as early as October 16, bars would be allowed to open for outdoor seating, and in Phase 3.3, which could begin October 31, to offer limited indoor seating. Bars will soon be eligible for the same outdoor dining grants offered to restaurants earlier this summer, providing $2,000 to use for building or improving outdoor dining areas.

Bars in New Orleans were shut down for the second time since the start of the pandemic on July 25, when the Mayor prohibited the sale of takeout alcohol. The ban, which seems to have been prompted by crowds gathering in the French Quarter and elsewhere, was lifted from restaurants in a surprise announcement last Friday. Both bars and restaurants are restricted to alcohol sales from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. only, the same hours put in place by the governor statewide.

Packaged liquor sales in the French Quarter will also be limited to the hours between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m., in another effort to combat large gatherings. “After restaurant alcohol sales end at 11 p.m., crowds continue to gather,” because people can buy booze from convenience stores, said city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno. The restricted hours will apply to business from the Mississippi River to Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue to Common Street.

The press conference also touched on enforcement, which recently resulted in two popular businesses being shut down, Tracey’s in the Irish Channel (briefly), and yesterday, musician Kermit Ruffins’ Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge. “Enforcement is here to stay,” said an official with the Department of Code Enforcement. The official said officers will be looking for “bars operating as bars, not just offering curbside service. Overcapacity, over-gathering, or overcrowding. Any establishment offering seating at or congregation around a bar — this is critical.” Mayor Cantrell said the city has so far shut down six New Orleans businesses.

In response to a question about breweries, Cantrell acknowledged that they have been at a disadvantage, even those that sell food, because they are not permitted at the state level. She said she hoped to be able to include breweries in her announcement today but that she is “still working with the ATC and the state” on a timeline. Cantrell said she is in close contact with both brewery and bar owners, giving a “special shoutout” to the general manager of the French Quarter’s Bar Tonique, Mark Schettler. She said Schettler spearheaded the BRACE pledge — which stands for Business Resilience and Community Education — as a resource for businesses that want to reopen in a way that’s “consistent, safe, and reliable for patrons.”

For full detail on the city’s rollout of phase 3 throughout October, see here.

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