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New Orleans Restaurants Can Expand Outdoor Seating Into Parking Lots, Sidewalks

The city is relaxing parking rules and issuing temporary sidewalk use permits to allow for seating

New Orleans will issue sidewalk-use permits for free through September 30

New Orleans is enacting temporary rules to let restaurants and bars that serve food expand their outdoor seating, as announced over the weekend. Effective yesterday, May 17, through September 30, restaurants can use private parking areas for additional outdoor tables and obtain sidewalk-use permits free of charge for the same while they operate under the city’s Safe Reopening plan.

“We’re still very concerned with the potential for virus spread, which is why eligible indoor establishments are limited to 25 percent capacity,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a release on Sunday. “However, my administration is working closely with residents and businesses to identify creative ways to expand low-risk operations, like allowing more outdoor seating than zoning and parking restrictions would normally allow.”

While restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity on Saturday, a significant number are choosing to hold off, citing concerns for the health and safety of staff and patrons. Evidence shows that COVID-19 is less contractable outside while maintaining six feet of distance from others, indicating a lower risk from socially distant outdoor dining than from restaurant dining rooms.

Restaurants can apply for a temporary Sidewalk Use Permit with The Department of Safety and Permits for free; they do not need a permit to use private parking areas for outdoor seating (six feet of space between tables is required in both areas). Establishments will need to make sure their use of sidewalks and parking areas still meet all Americans with Disabilities Act and State Fire Marshal requirements.

The official Phase One guidelines released over the weekend also do not include two rules previously outlined for restaurants — one about contact tracing and one about alcohol sales. Restaurants are only required to track customers that dine-in, the city confirmed to Eater, and not walk-up customers as stated earlier. (This follows another change exempting grocery and retail stores from the original rule.)

Additionally, a rule listed on the city’s resource page last week that said “no restaurant or food service establishment should serve any alcoholic beverage to a patron who is not also purchasing food” no longer appears there or in the official guidelines. Eater has reached out to the city to confirm whether alcohol can be served without a purchase of food and will update when we hear back.

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