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Crowds Return to French Quarter Bars On First Weekend Open Since March

Photos posted to social media over the weekend show a return of patrons to New Orleans bars

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Outside Cornet on Bourbon Street on May 16, 2020
Photo by CLAIRE BANGSER/AFP via Getty Images

Bars in New Orleans were allowed to welcome patrons for the first time since March on Saturday, and photos from the weekend show a return of crowds, some in various states of undress, to watering holes in the city’s French Quarter.

New Orleans entered phase two of loosened restrictions on June 13, which permitted bars without food permits and casinos to open at 25 percent capacity for the first time since the city’s stay-at-home order went into effect three months ago. Restaurants and other establishments open in phase one were allowed to increase capacity from 25 to 50 percent.

Despite the fact that capacities are limited, live music remains prohibited, and some popular French Quarter tourist destinations (like Pat O’Brien’s) remain closed, photos posted to social media over the weekend indicate a “return to normal” for bars on Bourbon Street and elsewhere in the Quarter.

As neighboring areas in Florida and Texas experience surges in cases of COVID-19, the images alarmed some, particularly a photo supposedly taken outside of French Quarter bar Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Saturday that was widely circulated.

“Oh, I’m worried. I am worried,” Mayor Cantrell said at a press conference last week about opening bars and loosening other restrictions. Cantrell said city code enforcement officials are monitoring businesses to make sure social distancing, masking requirements, and building capacity limits are enforced.

Not all photos gave cause for concern, however, as one surveillance shot from Bourbon Street around 8 p.m. on Saturday shows a lightly-trafficked corner with plenty of empty space for social distancing.

Phase two will last at least 21 days, at which point city officials will determine if New Orleans can further loosen restrictions for phase three.

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the city’s restaurant industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at nola@eater.com.

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