Governor Edwards to explore enforcement options for non-compliant businesses

Updated: Jun. 22, 2020 at 11:07 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Leaders with the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal are reviewing protocols after Governor John Bel Edwards announced Monday there needs to be greater enforcement of COVID-19 mitigation practices.

It comes less than three days after New Orleans health officials released information about a joint investigation into two new COVID-19 clusters in the parish. One of them, involving 100 cases, was traced back to several Tigerland bars in Baton Rouge.

The governor says the state is looking at different measures to ensure businesses comply with guidelines, like including limited occupancy, ensuring social distancing and requiring employees wear masks.

He says states all over the South are seeing an uptick in cases among young adults.

Edwards says the Governor of Texas is considering revoking permits of non-compliant businesses for 30 days, but Edwards says he is not there yet.

"We just have to get more compliance and, certainly, you try to do that with as light of a hand as possible," said Governor Edwards.

Instead, Edwards says he is more inclined to begin with what he calls ‘spot checks.'

"Courtesy visits to let people know whether they're operating appropriately and where they need to improve and then we will check on them to make sure they, in fact, do improve. If they don't then there will be additional measures taken," Edwards explained.

FOX 8 spoke with some restaurant and bar owners who say they are already doing everything by the book.

Rivershack Tavern Owner Donnie Thomas says several tables in his place are removed to ensure occupancy limits are maintained. He says he also makes sure his employees wear masks.

"It's not something we're used to, especially in this business, because it's all about the smile," Thomas said with a laugh. "But my servers, they're pretty good about it."

Thomas was not holding out hope for a transition to Phase Three, unprepared to make the adjustments to meet the expanded Phase Two requirements for live music, indoors.

Instead, Thomas says he is looking to possibly expand his outdoor live music schedule.

"It's the way I thought I'd be working for quite some time," said Thomas.

Unfortunately for Thomas that means holding off on the Jefferson Parish bar’s 30th anniversary celebration.

"With bands playing every night and specials but we had to put the brakes on all of the advertising and everything we were doing for that back in March when all of this started," Thomas explained.

According to federal guidelines, Phase Three would allow for more standing room at bars and fewer restrictions for larger venues like movie theaters and sporting events.

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