Go-cups are back in business in New Orleans, at least at restaurants.
Two months after forbidding restaurants and bars to sell takeout alcoholic drinks, Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s office announced a partial lifting of the ban effective Friday at 5 p.m. Restaurants are allowed to resume takeout, drive-thru and curbside service for alcoholic drinks between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m., which remains the last call for alcohol service at all restaurants now.
‘I’m worried that without even takeout business we’ll see a lot of our neighborhood bars close forever’
The move comes amid an outcry from businesses asking for looser restrictions as the coronavirus crisis stretches on and economic woes mount. Friday’s change addresses only restaurants, however; bars remain closed, and the takeout accommodation does not apply to them.
City officials have been analyzing the moves in coronavirus case numbers as they assess businesses restrictions. A Cantrell spokesman said Friday that if current data trends hold up, City Hall could make more rule change announcements next week.
While limited in scope, Friday’s news was greeted with jubilant cheers by some in the restaurant business.
“Music to my ears,” said Mike Mollere, manager of the French Quarter restaurant Port of Call. “I’m calling in a bartender right now.”
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Port of Call, famous for its burgers and known for its voluminous “monsoon” rum drinks, reopened this summer but closed after just one day when City Hall enacted the go-cup ban, which short-circuited its operating plans.
The restaurant eventually reopened again with takeout food and outdoor seating only, because its small dining rooms made indoor service incompatible with social distancing.
Mollere said that with takeout drinks, the restaurant will be able to bring back more staff.
“It’s really hard getting by on food alone. Everyone who comes here wants a monsoon,” he said.
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Across the United States, local laws have been temporarily changed to allow takeout drinks during the COVID-19 crisis, an accommodation for businesses affected by the pandemic fight. New Orleans, where go-cups have long been part of bar culture, went the other way, restricting takeout service as a tactic to fight the virus spread.
The ban on to-go drinks took effect July 24, after gatherings and party scenes around Bourbon Street and other tourism hubs drew scrutiny. Many bar and restaurant operators around New Orleans have argued that their businesses are being unfairly punished for the transgressions of Bourbon Street and tourists.
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The bar shutdown has been sweeping but not universal. Many bars have been able to reopen using “restaurant conditional” permits from the Louisiana state government, which lets them operate under the rules governing restaurants.
Corner pubs and large patio bars alike have been recast in this fashion, with table service and outdoor seating instead of the usual bar service. As of Friday, they will be able to resume takeout drink service, too.
The change will make a big difference for many restaurants, said Justin LeBlanc, owner of Bevi Seafood. When takeout drinks were first allowed, daiquiri sales helped bolster his small seafood market and po-boy shop in Mid-City.
“We’re not a bar, so takeout drinks might not seem like much. But believe me, when you’re just trying to hang on and survive and keep your staff employed, those dollars really matter,” LeBlanc said.
Plus, he said, it’s another way customers can support local businesses when their own finances are tight.
“They might not be to go out for dinner right now, but they will still stop by for a daiquiri,” he said. “They’re not giving that up right now.”
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