‘Frustrated isn’t the word’: Bar owners react to Gov. Edwards’ COVID-19 related restrictions

Updated: Jul. 11, 2020 at 11:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Governor called it an unfortunate reality. With the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Governor John Bel Edwards announced an executive order mandating a statewide mask mandate and will restrict bar service to curbside only.

The face covering requirement applies to anyone unable to stay physically distant outdoors or anywhere with others, beyond their household, inside. He says, in accordance with CDC guidelines, everyone ages eight and older must wear a face covering.

There are exceptions, however, including with medical conditions, those eating or drinking, people communicating with the hearing impaired, someone giving a speech to an audience or for broadcast.

Edwards says it is also acceptable for people to remove their mask, temporarily, for identification purposes.

Three parishes with lower incidence of COVID-19 may choose to opt out, according to the Governor: West Feliciana, Grant and Red River.

The new restrictions go in effect a minute after midnight, Monday morning.

“If you don’t like the mask mandate, then don’t like it. But wear your mask anyway if you’re going to be out in public. If you want to criticize me, criticize me,” Edwards said.

“Watching people walk around without a care and this thing is taking people that we know and that we love,” said Courtyard Brewery Owner Scott Wood about mask usage. “We need to do those very basic things that are just social distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, be conscientious of others and we don’t seem to be doing that. The numbers don’t reflect that.”

He does not fault the Governor for the executive order but he says he is concerned about the limitation he set on bars. Whether they serve food or not, bars will only be allowed to offer curbside service.

"We had just put a bunch of energy into brewing a whole bunch of new beers and we were going to release a bunch this coming weekend and now this kind of just wrecks our plans," Wood said.

Between COVID-19 and permitting, Courtyard Brewery has shut down and reopened three times.

“Frustrated isn’t the word. It’s just like exhaustion,” Wood said.

Bars like Beachcorner Bar and Grill has not been able to build much momentum, either.

"To get shut back down after only being open two weeks. It's devastating. It's completely devastating," said Manager Candace Hutchinson.

Hutchinson manages the small staff at Beachcorner and, like Wood, worries about her workers as the end of the extra CARES Act unemployment money draws to an end.

"It's a really big fear, a very big fear. We're going to try this curbside see how it works out. We might have to shut down," Hutchinson said, "and I do feel like it is kind of a punch in the gut going back to this and the bars are getting punished for all of this."

"Bars are part of the problem. I don't think bars are all of the problem. I think those are getting scapegoat or a little bit. But I do see if the numbers are the numbers, we got to do what we have to do and I can't kick and scream about that," said Wood.

Like Wood, Hutchinson looks to those not following the rules as a big reason for the surge.

"I feel like that's what is pushing us back. So, now the bars are suffering," explained Hutchinson.

Edwards assured the public, it's not personal.

“Understand, nothing I’m announcing today is designed to punish anyone, especially bar owners, but it is a simple acknowledgment of the reality of the situation. Through our limited contact tracing results that we’ve gotten, we’ve identified at least 36 outbreaks...from bars since the start of the outbreak,” said Governor Edwards.

He says those outbreaks have impacted more than 400 people

The Governor also limited gatherings to 50 people for all parishes except Orleans, where it remains 25.

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