New Orleans Bars Serving Drinks to Go as Virus Cases Wane

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One of the sacraments of New Orleans life, buying a drink to go, is again on offer.

City officials on Saturday allowed bars to begin selling takeout alcoholic beverages, as part of the city’s gradual reopening from COVID-19.

Go-cups had been allowed during a temporary loosening of restrictions that began in June. But in late July, officials halted all alcohol service at bars, after Bourbon Street and other tourism magnets attracted crowds lubricated by to-go cocktails.

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Also on Saturday, restaurants were allowed to increase their capacity to 75% from 50%, as long as tables are at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

James Garner swung open the door Saturday to the Golden Lantern in the French Quarter at 8 a.m. Saturday with a big smile on his face. Finally, the owner would be able to talk with his close-knit crew of customers. “I can’t wait to see ’em,” he said.

Garner told The Times-Picayune ‘ The New Orleans Advocate that he was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, finding himself short even after cashing in his retirement account.

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“My God, you just don’t know. It feels like I’ve been through the wringer and back,” Garner said, as he wrote “Drinks to Geaux” on a sidewalk chalkboard.

Daniel Victory, who owns Victory Nola, said his bar has been closed because of the pandemic. He said that so far, foot traffic is at 30% of normal. One challenge is making people understand that he has to close at 11 p.m. under current city rules.

“Last night, I had people coming at the door at 11:30 p.m.,” Victory told WWL-TV. “Sorry. We’re closed. The biggest message for me is ‘Go out earlier than the norm.’'”

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If cases continue to decline, the next phase on Oct. 16 would allow outdoor table service at bars. About two weeks after that, limited indoor bar service, at 25% occupancy, could begin.

Louisiana has recorded more than 168,000 virus cases and at least 5,355 deaths.

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