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New Orleans Ends Indoor Dining Limits at Restaurants

As expected, the city’s mask mandate will remain in place

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New Orleans is lifting capacity limits at restaurants, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Thursday, allowing them to serve at 100 percent occupancy both inside and outside. The city will keep its mask mandate in place as expected, following Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’s announcement this week ending the statewide mandate but deferring to local leaders and private businesses to set policies.

Effective 6 a.m. Friday, April 30, the city’s new COVID-19 guidelines make for the most open New Orleans has been since the pandemic began 14 months ago, city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno noted. While city officials referenced lifting capacity limits at restaurants and retail businesses during the press conference, there was no mention of changes to bar capacity.

Since-published details confirm that bars and breweries may also serve at 100 percent occupancy indoors, with one key caveat — that they can only do so if patrons are able to be seated at tables arranged six feet apart. which most of New Orleans’s neighborhood bars would be unable to do given their size.

Notably, the 1 a.m. end to alcohol sales at bars, restaurants, and music venues in New Orleans remains in place.

Also effective Friday, indoor gatherings can increase to 250 people, and outdoor gatherings are now capped at 500. Stadium and sporting venue guidelines remain the same, for instance at the Smoothie King Center — 25 percent capacity indoors, and 50 percent outside.

Mayor Cantrell first addressed the mask mandate during the press conference, as neighboring parishes like St. Tammany and Jefferson follow the governor’s lead and end local masking requirements. “New Orleans is a safer place because of the guidelines we have had in place for the past year, and a safer place to visit,” Cantrell said, emphasizing that as a tourist destination, New Orleans is in a different situation than other parts of the state.

“We are not where we need to be to end masking. 75 percent is where we need to be to move forward in our community,” said Cantrell, referencing the percentage of residents who need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.

About 43 percent of eligible New Orleans residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, city officials said Thursday. A number of bars and restaurants have joined the citywide vaccination effort in recent weeks, partnering with local health providers to host free vaccine events at their establishments, with the added incentive of a free drink or shot to be redeemed after receiving the vaccine shot.

Again, Dr. Avegno said Thursday, “I cannot stress enough that masking, distancing, and vaccination are the most important things we can do to keep on our continued path towards normalcy.”

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