Louisiana bar owners anxious to learn more about phase 3
BATON ROUGE - Some Louisiana businesses, including bars, have had a rough time during the pandemic. Now with the news that the state is moving toward phase 3 of reopening, there's some hope that more businesses can open their doors.
At the start of phase 2, bars were allowed to open. As the virus continued to spread and several hot spots were traced back to area bars, a restriction was put in place by Governor John Bel Edwards. That restriction said a bar can only stay open if they have a restaurant conditional permit but must close if they don't. Being licensed as a restaurant or a bar during the pandemic has been the difference between staying open and closing.
The Basin Music Hall co-owners Brian Ott and Jeremy Fenn say that restriction has made it a challenging six months.
"We have a huge place with two stories and we can properly distance more than most bars can in general, and we can't open because we don't serve a cheeseburger - it makes no sense to me," Ott said.
The Basin, a music venue downtown Baton Rouge, has an upstairs and downstairs bar with a capacity of more than 600 people. The venue has been set up for socially-distant events. Tables and chairs have been moved onto the floor typically reserved for a standing audience and the venue has been stocked with hand sanitizer and masks. Music acts, patrons, and employees are anxious to get back.
"Everything we have set up in there is set up for social distance as far as the tables, chairs... We're prepared to open if we can, it's just a matter of what happens tomorrow," Fenn said.
Many Louisiana businesses closed on March 16 during the stay-at-home order. Bars started reopening in Louisiana on June 5, but the policy in phase 2 was updated on July 13 with new bar restrictions in place.
"We had a huge event March 7 with Snoop Dogg, and then the next week we had two parties planned that got canceled," Ott said. "Ever since then, we had two weeks in June we opened and that was it."
With high hopes to stay open in June, Ott and Fenn say they spent thousands of dollars on inventory that they were unable to use. They're reluctant to buy more inventory before they know more about phase 3, but they hope it'll mean a change that will allow them to reopen their doors.
The Basin Music Hall says it has live music lined up for Friday night and will have a stocked bar if the venue is allowed to open.
Ott and Fenn say they've recently taken over ownership of the Cadillac Cafe at 5454 Bluebonnet Blvd. and plan to reopen the bar with food soon.
The governor plans to announce more about phase 3, Friday at 2 p.m.
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