Restaurants and other businesses in New Orleans must limit their maximum indoor capacity to 25 percent for at least the next three weeks, through January 29. The new “modified phase 1” restrictions for New Orleans, announced in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, went into effect 6 a.m. Friday, January 8.
The reduced capacity cap, down from 50 percent, follows the release of weekly COVID-19 data showing that New Orleans’s positivity rate has nearly doubled from last week, up to 10.4 percent. Per state guidelines, the city shut down indoor service at bars last Wednesday, the day before New Year’s Eve, after data showed 5.5 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive. In November, Gov. John Bel Edwards’s introduced statewide restrictions that prohibited indoor bar service in parishes that exceed a five percent positivity rate.
In addition to capping indoor capacity at 25 percent, city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said during the press conference that restaurants must limit tables to six people and that parties must be from the same household. It’s unclear how the restaurants should confirm or enforce that parties are from the same household; Eater has reached out to the city for further information and will update this post if we hear back. All gatherings and special events are prohibited, unless everyone is from the same household.
Bars remain prohibited from serving indoors but can continue to offer curbside and outdoor service. Maximum outdoor capacity for restaurants and bars is still 100 percent, with household limits. New Orleans’s director of economic development Jeff Schwartz also spoke Wednesday, reminding bars and restaurants about the city’s temporary parklet program that waives fees on outdoor dining parklet permits and the outdoor dining grant program that provides up to $2,000 for businesses to use towards outdoor service areas. Schwartz previewed the permanent parklet program to launch this spring, which will provide 40 additional grants to businesses on a first come, first serve basis. Additionally, Schwartz said that city officials are “deeply committed to diversifying the city’s economy” in light of the pandemic’s impact on tourism and hospitality, though didn’t go into much detail. Further information about the permanent parklet program will be announced in the spring, he said.
The reduction in capacity has prompted service changes at some local restaurants, including Mid City Creole favorite Gabrielle Restaurant. Owners announced Thursday that they will again close their dining room while the modified phase 1 rules are in place, saying that they make “operating our small restaurant nearly impossible” and that “we owe it to our city and staff to to play our part in keeping everyone safe.”
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