New Orleans bars can sell drinks to go on Saturday

State / Regional

(Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Starting this weekend, New Orleans bars will be allowed to sell drinks to go and restaurants may operate at 75% indoor capacity instead of 50% since a number of coronavirus indicators have stayed low, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.

The limit for restaurants and other businesses matches the state limit set weeks ago. If all goes well, New Orleans could match all state reopening levels by Oct. 31, with two more possible groups of changes, Cantrell said Thursday at a livestreamed news conference.

Those will depend on public response “ensuring we are a healthy city not only to live in but to visit,” she said.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards let some bars reopen and restaurants and other businesses move to 75% of indoor capacity on Sept. 11. New Orleans, which had shut down bars in July, did not follow suit.

French Quarter and downtown stores cannot sell package liquor outside bars’ state-set hours of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. because when bars were allowed to reopen earlier, “crowds continued drinking package liquor” after 11 p.m., the mayor said.

Cantrell said the city had closed six businesses as of Wednesday for flouting pandemic restrictions.

She said bars in New Orleans could open outdoor seating at mid-month and indoor seating by month’s end if coronavirius numbers stay low.

That will depend on an overall picture, said Jennifer Avegno, head of the city’s health department.

For instance, she noted, the number of new cases per day in New Orleans rose above the guideline of 50 after universities opened, but additional restrictions weren’t needed because the increase wasn’t affecting hospital admissions or spreading into the city at large.

If all indexes rise, officials would look for whether there appeared to be a specific cause, such as more schools reopening or a “superspreader” event, Avegno said.

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