Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Ahead of potential 'phase 3' announcement, bar owners hope to reopen

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BATON ROUGE - In September, and especially on a holiday off from school, Tigerland would typically be packed.

"First day of school would've been one of our busiest days of the year," said Darin Adams, owner of Reggie's and JL's. "First week of school would've been one of our busiest days. The Texas home game would have been huge this weekend. I mean, just lots of missed opportunities."

Adams says the extended closures of bars is doing serious damage.

"I mean, zero cash flow," Adams said. "I mean, we're hurting very bad financially."

Louisiana has been in some form of 'phase 2' restrictions since the first week of June. Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was encouraged by data and hopeful the state could move to 'phase 3' on Friday, Sept. 11, when the current 'phase 2' order expires. The question remains whether bar closures will be extended. Even if 'phase 3' were to begin, Adams says he's not very optimistic bars, including his, would be able to open their doors.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Adams said.

Edwards has relied on federal re-opening guidelines and criteria when making previous decisions.

Those plans, put forth by the White House coronavirus task force earlier this year, say  "bars may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where applicable and appropriate" in 'phase 2.'

Bars, which had been operating at 25 percent capacity, closed early in the summer during a statewide surge in coronavirus cases in which several outbreaks were traced back to those businesses.

'Phase 3' of the White House's plan said, "bars may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable."

In recent months, the task force has instead endorsed certain mitigation measures, including bar closures, even recommending them in recent reports to the state.

"The information you get out of the White House, just hold your breath. It will change again," Adams said. "It's kind of like the weather in Louisiana - don't like it today, wait until tomorrow. It will be different."

Adams says even once bars are allowed to reopen, the financial bleeding won't stop right away. He expects, for Reggie's and JL's, if they can't reopen in the next month or two they will be closed for good by semester's end. He says he just wants the opportunity to be open for those choosing to come in.

"Going into a bar is a choice," Adams said. "Everybody has a choice. We choose to drive every day. People choose to fly. People choose to skydive. People choose to join the army. People choose to bike ride. People choose to swim. Every day we make choices that involve risk. People, adults, that come to bars should have the choice, do I want to or do I not want to."

Edwards says an announcement for the state's next move will come sometime this week, although a specific date was not given. He is holding a post-Laura storm recovery press conference Tuesday afternoon where COVID-19 is expected to be discussed.


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