It’s a fresh taste of bitter medicine for New Orleans: A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is forcing bars in the good-time-loving, tourist-dependent city to shut down again just a month after they were allowed to partially reopen.
Louisiana had been an international hot spot for the new coronavirus in March, and New Orleans was its focal point. But hospitalizations began dropping after an April peak and it appeared that the closure of a wide array of businesses, including dine-in restaurants, gyms, tattoo parlors and bars, had flattened the curve.
A gradual easing of restrictions began in May, culminating with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s decision to let New Orleans bars reopen, albeit at only 25% capacity, on June 13.
Last call came a lot sooner than anyone wanted.
On Saturday, in a move supported by Cantrell, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued new restrictions. Edwards’ order doesn’t close bars completely. But it restricts them to takeout service or delivery. Bar operators contacted Monday were treating it as a shutdown order, however.
Mark Schettler, bartender and general manager of Bar Tonique, a “craft cocktail dive” on Rampart Street at the edge of the French Quarter, said the new restrictions, coupled with state law, appear to limit his sales to packaged liquor and beer and frozen daiquiris. “A bar like mine, that doesn’t help us,” he said. “Who the hell’s going to come buy a six-pack of beer from Tonique?”
It would make little sense to offer only takeout and delivery from Bruno’s Tavern, a neighborhood bar and grill in New Orleans’ Carrollton area that has been operating since the 1930s, said general manager Will Wilson.
“We could stay open but we’d be bleeding money,” Wilson said.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, a bar in an 18th century building on Bourbon Street, also is closing.
“Anytime they changed a compliance rule, we were right there changing with it,” said Cherie Boos, the bar’s manager. “This one, it’s a blow.”
State officials said they saw no other way.
By Kevin McGill, Associated Press – Read More on the story from the Las Vegas Sun