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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Closes Bars, Makes Face Masks Mandatory

Bars in Louisiana ordered closed again effective Monday, July 13 as COVID-19 cases spike across the state

The French Quarter’s Cafe Lafitte in Exile on March 26  
Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images

Last night Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order closing bars and mandating masks statewide for all individuals age eight and older, effective today, July 13.

The order closes businesses licensed as bars to on-premise consumption — inside or outside — whether or not they serve food. Bars with and without food permits will, however, be allowed to offer curbside service. The governor’s order supersedes New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s announcement last week limiting bars and restaurants to table service only.

In a press conference Saturday afternoon, Gov. Edwards said of implementing a state mask mandate that “we know that face masks work, it really is that simple.” Regarding enforcement, he said businesses will have to urge customers to wear them. “If someone refuses to wear a mask, they should be asked to leave. If not, they are trespassing.” He added that “citations will be against businesses for not enforcing mask requirements,” but that “we aren’t going to be out there with a goal to write citations.”

The current occupancy limits for restaurants and casinos in Louisiana — 50 percent capacity — remain in place. Edwards capped private indoor gatherings at 50, but the maximum in New Orleans is 25, per Mayor Cantrell’s order last week.

Gov. Edwards presented the new restrictions as a way to prevent having to take even further steps backwards in the state’s reopening, noting that Louisiana now has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Furthermore, he said the state has identified 36 outbreaks affecting at least 405 people tied directly to bars.

It has been an especially fraught journey for New Orleans bars navigating the stay-at-home order and subsequent phases of reopening. Preceding today’s closure, there were confusing restrictions on the sale of to-go drinks at the outset of the shutdown, an earlier-than-expected reopening date, and last week’s prohibiting of bar seating. A tweet from LGD bar Courtyard Brewery expressing frustration that it would be unable to reopen due to people “who refuse to take COVID seriously” went viral after the governor’s announcement.

Louisiana joins states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and more that have closed bars or restaurants again after reopening. The new order will be in place until at least July 24, but may be extended.

Eater is tracking the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s restaurant industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at nola@eater.com.

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