To some residents, picturing New Orleans without its bars and restaurants is like trying to picture the city without potholes. However, in the wake of COVID-19 and the devastating toll it has taken on the New Orleans community, there remains apprehension regarding the reopening of the city's businesses.
While some are concerned about their safety as places begin to reopen, other residents are worried that their favorite watering holes will be no more when the sky clears. "We project there will be a significant mortality of restaurants," said Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, in a NOLA.com article. "They are cash-flow driven businesses at very low profit margins."
As of this week, New Orleans is in Phase 1, which allows bars with food permits to operate at 25 percent capacity and on a reservation system. Many popular locations throughout the city, like the Bulldog Tavern and Tchoup Yard, are open and ready for business. Still, others are holding off, many concerned over the possibility of large crowds gathering in newly opened bars and the potential this has to exacerbate the spread of the virus.
According to a report by The Washington Post, Wisconsin bars were packed following the state's Supreme Court ruling that nullified Governor Evers's stay-at-home order. Evers referred to the ensuing chaos as the "Wild West," as many bar-goers in the state were not wearing masks and not following proper social-distancing protocols. This has led some to wonder if this might be what is to come for those states that have decided to reopen their industries.
While New Orleans will be opening up its businesses in a series of stages accompanied by restrictions designed to mitigate exposure, as well as to protect patrons and employees, the unease among some residents remains. The potential for overcrowding is a conceivable problem that bars will face under new regulations, since the guideline that once held that patrons must also order food to be served alcohol is no longer listed on the New Orleans Safe Reopening webpage.
According to Eater New Orleans, this past Saturday, the opening day for many New Orleans bars (with food permits), the Bulldog and another Uptown bar were issued a warning, as police were called to the scene to break up crowds. In terms of public health, this does not bode well, and the possible resurgence of COVID-19 is a major cause of concern among health officials.