Restrictions frustrating bar owners as Phase 3 starts

Napoleon’s, located in downtown New Iberia, remains shuttered despite the fact that Louisiana has entered Phase 3 of its recovery plan for COVID-19.

Although many in Louisiana are hopeful about the recent decision from Gov. John Bel Edwards to go into Phase 3 of re-opening the state, many local bars are still unable to open as a result of the guidelines.

Phase 3 of re-opening, which started Friday, consists of raising the capacity for restaurants, businesses and churches to 75 percent instead of 50 percent.

Bars in Louisiana were put under an unusual restriction based on the percentage of COVID-19 cases. The only bars currently allowed to open under the current restrictions are those doing business in a parish that has a less than 5 percent positivity rate for two consecutive weeks.

Louisiana itself has a 6.97 percent average rate for COVID-19, which leaves many bars in the state still unable to open.

That includes Iberia Parish, where many bar owners are frustrated with mandates that they feel are specifically restrictive to their industry.

Barry Guillotte, owner of Napoleon’s in downtown New Iberia, said his bar has been closed under state guidelines while restaurants and eating establishments have been able to open to some degree.

“They said that we can’t open until the infection rate is under 5 percent,” Guillotte said. “People will find ways to drink together no matter what. I don’t think this has been thought through.”

The business climate for bars in the midst of COVID-19 is so pessimistic that Guillotte has tossed around the idea of doing something else in his establishment.

“If I won the lottery, I would just do something else with that property and make it a mancave,” he said.

Other bar owners expressed similar frustrations with the way their industry in particular has been handled by state mandates.

Downtown New Iberia, which is home to several bars frequented by locals regularly on nights and weekends, has been closed for months in the wake of COVID-19 without a trace of the usually festive atmosphere of Cajun food and drinks.

Currently, Iberia Parish still has a way to go in reaching the appropriate positivity score. The first two week period where the positive rates were measured saw Iberia Parish with a 12.20 percent positivity rate. During the most recent two week measurement, it had dropped to 10.50 percent.

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