With bars set to reopen Friday, one owner says it might not be worth it for them right now
BATON ROUGE - One Baton Rouge bar owner is still questioning whether it's worth it to reopen right now.
Governor John Bel Edwards announced Monday that Louisiana will be entering Phase Two of reopening the state’s economy Friday.
Remi DeMatteo, co-owner of Hayride Scandal, a softly lit, prohibition-era style bar, says it doesn’t make financial sense for the bar to open under the new restrictions.
"Given that we have to operate, essentially at a 75 percent loss, we don't know if it's feasible for us to reopen right now,” DeMatteo said.
Many bars in and around Baton Rouge will spend the rest of the week preparing to welcome customers for the first time since late March.
But DeMatteo says Hayride Scandal will take a slower approach to reopening, as he doesn't want to lose what makes the bar special in the first place – its atmosphere and service.
"We don't know if we can provide the same level of service, the same type of service," DeMatteo said.
Bars without a Louisiana Department of Health food permit weren’t allowed to open under Phase One of the state’s reopening plan. Now under, Phase Two, Gov. Edwards says those bars can open later this week, while adhering to stricter guidelines in comparison with restaurants and bars with food permits, which have been open since May 15.
Under Phase Two orders, bars must operate at 25 percent seating capacity. Like restaurants now, all employees interacting with customers must wear a face mask or cover.
Also, tables and chairs at establishments must be at least 6 feet apart. That’s because everyone inside will need to be seated at a table.
"How do you operate that in a facility that's predicated on intimacy. This whole business here at Hayride Scandal is a very intimate atmosphere. There's no TV's in here, the few that are just have period pieces. So this is very much a place where you met somebody, talk to somebody, got up and got to know somebody. This place was born out of forced interactions. So I don't know what that looks like, and I don't know how we can operate like that in this environment,” DeMatteo said.
The concern of state health officials is the threat of a COVID-19 “hot spot” developing as people congregate without social distancing in places like bars. In other parts of the world, specifically in South Korea, governments have closed bars after reopening because of new virus cases.
Hayride Scandal opened on Corporate Boulevard in the spring of 2017. Dematteo says the past few months have forced him and his business partners to focus, not only on the coming weeks but on how the overall bar experience will look in the future.
"Okay, great, we can open at 25 percent capacity now. How long is that for? We think the environment is completely changed now, to the point where we have to think of how we operate not only short term but medium and long term. Next month to next six months to next year and how does that look?" DeMatteo said.
How it looks is still unclear, but DeMatteo is confident they’ll be back in some form before long. He adds that it’s going to have to make sense on paper before another cocktail is crafted at this bar.
"First of all it needs to be profitable and I need to bring my employees back where it makes sense for them from a fiscal standpoint and a health standpoint. And all those have to be weighed in," DeMatteo said.
For more information on Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, CLICK HERE.
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