Gov. John Bel Edwards loosened Louisiana’s coronavirus restrictions Thursday to allow bars to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. — one hour later than the previous restrictions allowed.
The move comes one week after Edwards ushered the state into Phase 3 of reopening and allowed on-site consumption of alcohol in bars in parishes with a lower incidence of COVID-19 cases.
Bars are allowed table seating and service only. Alcohol sales will also end at 11 p.m. for other businesses, including restaurants and casinos.
To qualify, parishes must have a percent-positive coronavirus case rate of less than 5 percent over a 14 day period. Parish governing authorities must opt-in.
The governor’s office confirmed that four parishes — Acadia, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry and Plaquemines — have qualified and opted in. The parish governments of St. John the Baptist and St. Charles have also indicated that they will opt in.
Orleans Parish qualified, but New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced last week that she would keep the parish’s modified Phase 2 restrictions in place for the foreseeable future.
Edwards said in a press release that he made the decision to extend alcohol sales after consulting representatives of the service and hospitality industry, calling the one-hour extension a “meaningful change to benefit restaurants that may have later service.”
“This change has been implemented in several states, including Colorado, and has been recommended by the White House Coronavirus Task Force,” Edwards said in a press release.
“Limiting the hours for alcohol consumption is designed to reduce the amount of higher risk behavior in this community,” Edwards repeated in Thursday’s release.
Bars were first closed in March during the initial surge of coronavirus cases in the state. Edwards allowed bars to reopen at 25 percent capacity when the state entered Phase 2 in early June, but behavior at bars quickly contributed to the second surge of coronavirus cases in the state.
With their close confines and young, often inebriated clientele, they became the site of so-called super spreader events across the state. The Louisiana Department of Health attributed more than 100 COVID-19 cases to the Tigerland bars near Louisiana State University after one weekend of partying.
Edwards shuttered barrooms again on July 13, at the same time he implemented a statewide mask mandate and stricter limits on gathering sizes in an attempt to tamp down coronavirus cases in the state.