Louisiana’s Phase 3 means some bars are open but last call is early

All alcohol consumption at any establishment must end at 10 p.m.

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE — Restaurants, salons, gyms and other establishments, including some bars, will have fewer restrictions as Louisiana transitions to Phase 3 of its coronavirus reopening plan Friday night.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the new guidelines at a press conference Friday afternoon, stressing that residents should make no significant changes to the cautious routines that helped reduce the state’s COVID-19 levels.

The new guidelines include:

  • Restaurants, salons, gyms, churches and spas will be able to increase capacity to 75%.
  • Sporting and stadium events can open at 25% capacity.
  • Casinos will remain at 50% capacity.
  • Parishes that meet certain standards may permit bars to open (see details below).
  • Alcohol consumption at all establishments and businesses must end at 10 p.m.
  • Face-covering mandate will remain in effect statewide.
  • Six-foot social distancing mandate will remain in effect statewide.

BARS

As for bars, the governor made a special allowance to open some of Louisiana’s bars as the White House’s Phase 3 guidelines do not recommend bars opening. Edwards said parishes with a percent-positive COVID-19 testing rate of below 5% can ask the state to open bars.

If a qualifying parish decides to open its bars, the bars will be limited to a 25% indoor capacity and a 50% outdoor capacity. Furthermore, only table-side service will be permitted. Patrons must remain seated indoors and order and consume all alcohol at a table. Only patrons who are 21 or older may be admitted, loud music is still banned, and bars must close at 11 p.m.

Currently, only five parishes meet the percent-positivity standard. They are Bienville, Jefferson Davis, St. John, Plaquemines, and Orleans.

IF PHASE 3 FAILS

Edwards said if residents begin ignoring precautions and COVID-19 case counts climb back up, the state could revert back to Phase 2: “If we have to, we will.”

“We’re not going to put ourselves on a course to lose the ability to deliver life saving care at our hospitals,” the governor said.

He said Phase 3 will only succeed if residents continue to wear face masks, practice social distancing, wash their hands and stay home whenever possible. He urged residents to choose takeout over dining-in and restrict indoor activities.

The governor hinted that Louisiana may not see a Phase 4 until the pandemic is over. Although, the Phase 3 order expires on Oct. 9, it will more than likely be extended for some time.

“There really isn’t a lot of room for moving forward past phase 3 until the pandemic is over,” Edwards said.

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Wesley Muller
Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.