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One of the Old River control structures. Area aerials Tuesday day May 28, 2019, in and around Baton Rouge, La.

The impact of a state-imposed closure of bars to combat a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases has shown up in regularly collected data about which businesses are open in the Baton Rouge area.

In mid-May and mid-July, the number of local small businesses that were open was approaching the same level as before the coronavirus restrictions began in mid-March that shut down most businesses, according to data reported by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. That rebound to near pre-pandemic levels has been reversed.

With the renewed bar closures, the number of small businesses open in East Baton Rouge Parish was down 22.5% as of July 27, compared to the average number of small businesses open in January before the coronavirus pandemic began in Louisiana. That mirrors the current state average of 23% for the same time period, BRAC said from data collected by Opportunity Insights. The national average was 20%, as of July 8, according to BRAC's online dashboard.

Other parishes in the metro area fared worse and some better than East Baton Rouge Parish.

In West Baton Rouge Parish, the number of small businesses open is down 26.5% compared to before the pandemic. Iberville and Livingston Parishes were hit harder, with the number of small businesses open down by 35.6% and 34.3%, respectively, as of the end of July. Ascension Parish was less impacted, with the number of small businesses open down only 15.7%. In both East and West Feliciana parishes, the number of small businesses open were down about 6%.

Phased reopenings of the state's economy started in mid-May, eventually allowing bars to reopen in Phase 2 of the recovery. As coronavirus cases rebounded, a statewide bar closure, with curbside pickup allowed, went into effect on July 13 as other businesses remained in a Phase 2 status with capacity limitations. Phase 2 has been extended to Aug. 28.

Some bars across the state that have kitchens are continuing to operate and have dine-in seating by applying for a conditional use permit that allows them to follow the same rules and regulations as restaurants that serve alcohol. An estimated 200 bars in the state have been able to reopen through the conditional restaurant permits, according to the Louisiana Restaurant Association.


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.