'Completely disappointed': Bar owners react to Phase 3 restrictions
BATON ROUGE - A quiet Friday night along Third Street in downtown Baton Rouge is not what bar owners were expecting following the state’s announcement on moving into Phase 3 of reopening.
“Well, I think yesterday when we heard we were moving to Phase 3 we were all a little optimistic and a little excited. Of course, today, completely disappointed,” restaurant and bar owner Brad Watts said.
Watts is the owner of Kalurah Street Grill near the I-10 overpass and The River Room Bar on Laurel Street near the Mississippi River. He just decided to reopen his restaurant on Thursday after almost six months of being closed. Watts was hoping it would be the same story for his bar on Friday.
“What we learned today was that things for the bar business haven’t changed at all, not one bit. In fact, most people would say that with the 10 o’clock cut off on alcohol. So, if you’re open six days a week, (from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.), you can be open 30 hours a week. We’ve moved backwards,” Watts said.
Down Perkins Road at Zippy’s, owner Neal Hendrick says they’re happy with the expanded capacity limit under Phase 3, but the new 10 o’clock cutoff for alcohol is another financial blow to deal with.
“It will affect our service industry people that come eat and drink later in the evening after they get off between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Another concern is LSU football games that run past 10 o’clock. We'll we be having to shut the bar at 10 o’clock even though LSU is playing football on tv,” Hendrick said.
Even if bars in the parish are allowed to eventually open, for places like The river Room, Watts says it likely won’t be worth it at 25 percent occupancy.
“I don’t know a lot of things but I know how to do math. And under those restrictions, I can’t pay rent, and pay insurance, and pay labor. You know, 25 percent occupancy and we still have to pay 100 percent of everything else, that’s crazy,” Watts said.
After already reopening and closing once in June like many bars in the state, Watts says he knows that time is running out for him and other business owners.
“This can’t go on too much longer. I mean people are really, really suffering. And it’s not just the bar owners. There’s a lot of attention being paid to restaurant and bar owners. But think about the ancillary businesses that are associated with our industry. The liquor distributors, the food distributors, the musicians. The musicians are getting killed right now,” Watts said.
Watts also sits on the Baton Rouge board for the Louisiana Restaurant Association. He says another big concern he has is that many restaurants and bars have already used most of the financial aid given to them to stay afloat during the summer. Watts says that is leaving owners with very little money to continue to help them through the fall.
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