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New Orleans Won’t Lift Bar and Restaurant Restrictions With the Rest of the State

The city is allowing larger gatherings but will keep indoor dining limits in place for now

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The City of New Orleans will allow larger gatherings and more people at indoor and outdoor sporting events under new COVID-19 guidelines announced Wednesday, but will not lift occupancy limits at bars and restaurants along with the rest of the state. The minor phase 3 modifications go into effect Friday, April 2, two days after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’s executive order lifting capacity limits at bars and restaurants statewide, with the caveat that local guidelines would still apply.

In a statement released Wednesday, March 31, City Hall said that indoor gatherings of up to 150 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people will be allowed on Friday, up from 75 and 150 people, respectively. Indoor sports venues can host 25 percent of their capacity, and outdoor sports venues can open at 50 percent capacity, up from 15 percent and 25 percent.

For now, those are the only changes to the city’s COVID-19 restrictions. Current indoor occupancy limits at bars and restaurants, in place since March 12, will stay the same — 75 percent at restaurants, and 50 percent at bars and breweries (full outdoor capacity is permitted at all three businesses). While the governor’s new order also removed restrictions on when bars and restaurants could serve alcohol, those hours remain from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. in New Orleans.

Gov. Edwards announced the lifting of capacity limits in Louisiana on Tuesday, March 30, by which point city officials had already warned that New Orleans was unlikely to immediately adopt the changes. “Concerns remain, especially considering the reversal of trends in several states, as well as the spread of stronger variants that are being detected in several cities in Louisiana,” City Hall reiterated in a statement Wednesday.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association quickly responded to the city’s update, demanding the Mayor implement state guidelines. “It is now time to allow these businesses to enjoy the same approach to COVID mitigation our other 63 parishes in the State are allowed to follow,” said LRA President and CEO Stan Harris, adding that “New Orleans has generated some of the best outcomes statewide related to positivity.” Still, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House urged local and state leaders this week to pull the brakes on the easing of COVID-related restrictions amid a worrying rise in cases in the majority of states.

New Orleans neighbors Jefferson Parish and St. Tammany Parish have both adopted the governor’s guidelines, which went into effect Wednesday.

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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