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New Orleans Closes Bars, Bans To-Go Drinks, and Restricts French Quarter Access for Final Days of Mardi Gras

The slew of restrictions will be in place for the lead up to and on Mardi Gras, from February 12 to February 17 

Louisiana Moves To Phase 1 Of Reopening
The French Quarter will have limited access in the final days of Mardi Gras
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Starting next weekend, New Orleans bars will be closed citywide, to-go alcohol sales will be banned, package liquor sales in the French Quarter will be halted, and access to certain parts of the French Quarter, including Bourbon Street, will be restricted. City officials announced additional COVID-19 restrictions for the five days leading up to Mardi Gras (on February 16) in a press conference today. The rules go into effect next Friday, February 12 at 6 a.m. and will be in place through Ash Wednesday, February 17.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell began the press conference by saying that as a result of “new COVID-19 variants, recent crowds on Bourbon Street, and the potential for larger crowds in upcoming weekends,” the need for additional restrictions was apparent (parades, balls, and other official Mardi Gras celebrations were canceled in late 2020). At the moment, New Orleans’s “modified phase 2” allows indoor dining at restaurants at 50 percent capacity and 100 percent capacity outdoors, and prohibits bars from indoor service but allows to-go alcohol sales and outdoor service. The city previously announced that businesses licensed as bars would remain closed for indoor service through Mardi Gras regardless of the city’s virus rate, but they will now be closed entirely, prohibited from curbside and outdoor service.

Additionally, bars with conditional restaurant permits, which many bars successfully obtained earlier in the pandemic, are also closed entirely. To-go alcohol sales are banned citywide from any establishment — restaurants, hotels, and casinos — and package liquor sales will be prohibited within the entirety of the French Quarter.

The city is enacting measures to limit access to the French Quarter, particularly Bourbon Street. Between the hours of 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. from February 12 through 17, NOPD will restrict pedestrians and vehicles entering the French Quarter to residents, employees, hotel guests, restaurant and shop patrons, and taxis/rideshare. In the Quarter, street access will be limited and loitering prohibited on:

  • Bourbon Street between Canal Street and Orleans Avenue
  • Decatur Street between Dumaine and Toulouse Streets

The same rules will be in place for Frenchmen Street between Esplanade Avenue and Royal Street. Street vendors and street performances are banned, and gathering on the neutral ground under the N. Claiborne overpass between Orleans Avenue and St. Bernard Avenue will be prohibited. There are no such restrictions in place for Uptown parade routes or thoroughfares like Magazine Street, officials confirmed.

In terms of enforcement, the city said to expect an enhanced police presence starting this weekend, saying “all hands will be on deck.” New Orleans police chief Shaun Ferguson said $500 citations can be issued to anyone violating guidelines and that businesses caught out of compliance “will be shut down on the spot.” Officials also had stern words for businesses they called bad actors operating out of “selfishness” that “continue to threaten the delicate ecosystem of our hospitality industry. You are responsible for deaths in this city.”

Mayor Cantrell said hospitality workers should apply now for unemployment for the five days they will be out of work, but didn’t mention potential relief for businesses. She also said that hospitality workers are a priority for the City of New Orleans in terms of COVID-19 vaccination, and that when the city’s supply increases, “they are at the top of our list,” though didn’t provide further detail.

Addressing criticism the city has received for promoting tourism to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Cantrell said “we are a welcoming city,” and that if people want to come to town to celebrate “like a New Orleanian,” for example by taking in the city’s “house floats,” they are welcome. But, she said, “If you’re looking to come to New Orleans thinking you’ll be in crowds, drinking, hanging with people in the streets, that’s not happening. So don’t come.”

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

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