The backlash against Gov. John Bel Edwards’ announcement that he was signing an executive order putting a statewide mask requirement in place and preventing bars which do not serve food from serving alcohol for consumption indoors — effectively closing down 3,100 bars — was swift.
“Many of my constituents reached out to me, asking if it is legal to put a mask requirement in place,” Louisiana District 49 Rep. Blake Miguez said. “I think that is a question for Attorney General Jeff Landry to answer.”
Although Landry had not been active on social media Saturday, he had fired a shot across the governor’s bow previously, using Twitter to warn against any tightening of rules on masks or business operations.
“I would advise @lagov to carefully review the recent U.S. Fifth Circuit ruling in Mark Anthony Spell v. John Bel Edwards before mandating any additional restrictions,” Landry wrote on June 30.
Miguez, one of 43 legislators who have committed to enact legislation to end Edwards’ emergency declaration in order to nullify his power to issue declarations such as the mask requirement, said he is also concerned with the effect of the restrictions on the economy.
“So far, we have had the Payroll Protection Program funds, we’ve had beefed-up unemployment insurance, we’ve had stimulus money to prop things up,” Miguez said. “When all that runs out, I am afraid we are going to see the real effects of these restrictions.”
Ty Boudoin, owner of the Quarter Tavern next to the Torrido Village Shopping Center, said the new moratorium would make it impossible for him to continue operating.
“It’s definitely going to shut us down,” Boudoin said.
What was frustrating for him, Boudoin said, is that his bar had been inspected, on several occasions, and passed.
“I don’t know why he’s picking on the small bars,” Boudoin said. “That’s all they are picking on is bars. We had the state fire marshal come in twice in the last two weeks. Both inspections were perfect. What are they spending money on that for if they were just going to shut us down anyway?”
Boudoin also said his employees were upset because they were following the Phase Two masking requirements when other bars in town were not.
“I told them that they would have to go by the rules if they came back, and they agreed,” he said. “It was hard for them because they would go to other places in town and come back telling me that the places were packed, no one was keeping social distance and none of the bartenders were wearing their masks.”
Miguez argued that any restrictions that will hurt the economy — and consequently the state’s tax base — could have longer legs than the virus itself.
“If we did not have that CARES Act money, we could not have balanced the budget this year,” Miguez said. “What are we going to do next year when we have lost businesses to other states because of these restrictions? We’re going to be looking at cuts to higher education, to road programs, to things that will hurt the quality of life for people in Louisiana.”
Boudoin suggested that an easier solution would have been to enforce the restrictions on the bars that were violating the standards instead of making all bars close.
“We didn’t get any warnings,” he said. “When the fire marshal came, everything was 100 percent. We’re getting shut down and we are following the rules. We gotta live just like everyone else.”
Boudoin also said he is not a fan of the mask requirement.
“He (Edwards) can come over here and try to make me wear a mask,” he said.