Businesses, DDD and tourism leaders react to N.O. Phase 3.1 reopening

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New Orleans CBD and French Quarter.
New Orleans CBD and French Quarter. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - At Buffa’s Bar and Restaurant, the owner Jarret Rogers is trying to keep up with the new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He commented on the mayor announcing that bars will be allowed to serve to-go drinks starting on Saturday.

“To-go alcohol, it’s a tricky thing for us because you can’t have them in here and you give people a drink to walk out on the street you can’t control where they’re going with that drink or what they’re doing,” Rogers said.

Mayor Latoya Cantrell had held a news conference a short time before Rogers commented. She announced that the city was moving into Phase 3.1, as it relates to reopening its economy.

“Bars will be able to move forward with selling to-go alcohol only. This is in the 3.1,” Cantrell said.

But restaurants can have up to 75 percent capacity indoors and Buffa’s sells food.

“Indoors for us, since we’re such a small space, it’s not going to make a difference as long as we’re trying to keep the social distancing in place which is, of course, is very, very important,” Rogers said.

The city also announced financial help for bars that have suffered because of coronavirus restrictions.

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Director of the Office of Economic Development for the city. He said $2,000 grants are being offered to help bars.

“We’re going to have a supplementary round of outdoor dining grants that we’ve already announced for restaurants available for bars almost immediately. The application will open on Friday,” Schwartz stated.

Kurt Weigle is President & CEO of the Downtown Development District of New Orleans. He said the progress in reopening more of the economy is welcomed.

“The DDD is thrilled that we’re to this point because what it shows is that we’ve done a good job of controlling the virus and we’re at a place now where it is safe for people to come back to the offices downtown, make use of the restaurants, the other facilities that people have grown used to for so many years,” Weigle said.

The DDD worked with the city to get the Curbside Dining and Parklet Program going.

“The DDD has been working with the city for a number of months on curbside dining that they announced today. Once again, I think that’s vitally important, especially to restaurants, bars as they’re allowed to open,” Weigle stated.

And Kelly Schulz of New Orleans & Company says the progress happening in the city related to COVID-19 could help more businesses bring on additional workers.

“We see this as a positive development, a good way to operate. Our job here at New Orleans and Company is to make sure that we’re constantly promoting and marketing the city but doing so with safety being always first,” Schulz said.

Tourism leaders are doing what they can to attract more visitors even as the pandemic continues.

“Next week actually is New Orleans Restaurant week, which is a campaign done by the Louisiana Restaurant Association, next week is also Black Restaurant Week, so we have a lot of opportunities along with this positive news to be able to encourage people safely to come back to our restaurants and attractions,” Schulz said.

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