Only seven parishes in Louisiana still have the ability to keep bars open for indoor service, after Gov. John Bel Edwards rolled back coronavirus restrictions and put the state in a modified version of Phase 2.
Edwards’ administration said 26 parishes that had previously reopened bars lost that ability when the new restrictions came down Wednesday. Ironically, the closures come on one of the biggest nights of the year for bars, when college students home for the holiday traditionally flock to their local watering hole on Thanksgiving Eve.
However, Edwards’ order also gives bars across the state a new ability to open outdoor service, which many parishes did not previously have. Bars can allow 25% capacity outdoors if they do table service and don’t serve more than 50 people.
Only Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Plaquemines, East Feliciana and Catahoula parishes still are able to let bars operate at 25% capacity indoors. All bars also must close at 11 p.m. and only allow people 21 and older, according to the governor’s order.
The rest of the state’s parishes – including East Baton Rouge, Jefferson and Lafayette – must close down bars to indoor service, though outdoor seating of up to 50 people is allowed.
Meanwhile, bars are still allowed to operate if they get a conditional restaurant permit, under which they must make more money from food sales than from alcohol sales. Night clubs and small music venues are among those that have gotten the conditional restaurant permits.
Edwards' modified Phase 2 order, which comes as cases and hospitalizations spike across the state, closed down bars to indoor consumption in all parishes that saw 5% or higher percent positivity for two weeks. That is the measure of tests that result in COVID-19 cases.
Before the governor ratcheted up restrictions in a press conference Tuesday, parishes had to meet the 5% threshold for two weeks, but could remain open until they hit 10% for two weeks. As of Wednesday, any parish that hasn’t seen lower than 5% positivity for the past two weeks must shut down bars.
As of Wednesday, when the Health Department updated its percent positivity statistics and the new order came down, several parishes lost the ability to keep bars open.
Orleans Parish, by far the largest to retain the ability to keep bars open to indoor service, still allows bars to remain open at 25% capacity. The parish saw its positivity rate stay relatively flat in the previous two weeks that the Health Department used to determine bar openings, at 2.5% and 2%, respectively.
The modified Phase 2 took most businesses back to 50% occupancy, down from 75%. Excluded from those rules are churches, and Edwards also did not require high school football to shut down, as was the case during the state’s original Phase 2.