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Where Y’Eat: Vaccination Celebrations Ring Through New Orleans Restaurants

Two regulars toast the return of their favorite spot, Parlay's in Lakeview.
Ian McNulty
Two regulars toast the return of their favorite spot, Parlay's in Lakeview.

Going out to eat with friends, catching up over a nice meal, these outings bring pleasure. Lately though they've been sparking outright jubilation. I call it the vaccination celebration.  

As people become fully vaccinated many are dining out. This is happening across the spectrum. But for older regulars, and for others at higher risk from Covid, it often means returning to a favorite restaurant for the first time in a year.

For so many, dining out is a vital social outlet, but that came to a lurching halt last spring. Now, people who have been vaccinated and completed the waiting period for full protection are feeling more comfortable venturing out again.

I’ve been seeing it everywhere. It's clear what's happening because often they proudly announce why they’re back. They show off completed vaccination cards like hall passes, they order cocktails to mark the milestone. They are like cotton-topped teenagers out on the prowl again.  

Health experts say fully vaccinated people still need to wear masks in most settings, avoid large gatherings and abide social distancing. Those same protocols remain in place for restaurants in Louisiana, which require mask use and must space tables six feet apart.

So no, this is not a free-for-all nor does it signal victory over the virus.

But the shifting of gears is obvious to anyone who's been around these vaccinations celebrations, whether it's two a gal pals finally resuming their lunch ritual, or the family taking grandpa back to his favorite joint.

For restaurants that have been brought to the breaking point over the past year, they're bringing needed business, but also something more.

The vaccination celebrations are bringing new energy and enthusiasm and purpose to places where everyday celebration was the norm.

As more vaccines roll out, look for more people to keep rolling into their favorite restaurants, and for the celebrations there to again feel like just part of New Orleans life.

Copyright 2021 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio. To see more, visit WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio.

Ian is the host of Where Y’Eat and the Community Impact series at WWNO.