Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Some businesses begin limited reopening, Friday

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana restaurants of all kinds were adding outdoor tables 10 feet apart Friday in a tiny step toward normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restaurants statewide have been allowed to offer only takeout and delivery food since March 21 under an order by Gov. John Bel Edwards. But starting Friday, restaurants are now also allowed to seat people outside, though without waiter service at the tables.

New Orleans is not participating in the governor’s tweaks to business restrictions, which also include letting mall retailers offer curbside service. Bucking the Democratic governor’s order, at least one parish have said restaurants may start indoor dining at 25% of their capacity.

In Mandeville, north of New Orleans, the Chinese restaurant Trey Yuen is moving a few tables from its dining room to near its koi pond on one side and near its waterfall garden on the other.

Manager Mandy Perrilloux said she hopes it boosts business a bit.

“I know people want to get out of the house now, after being cooped up. It’ll be a safe way to do it. I hope. And it’s still scary to a lot of people. So I’m not sure,” she said Wednesday.

Edwards’ announcement Monday was exciting, said Jenna Kramer, owner of In-Laws Cajun Specialties — a meat market and small restaurant a short walk from a truck stop in the southwestern town of Iowa (pronounced EYE-oh-way).

“It’ll definitely give truck drivers a place to sit. They don’t have to get their food and sit in their trucks,” she said.

Edwards said Monday that he’d hoped for a wider reopening but rising numbers of cases in northeast Louisiana, the Baton Rouge area and Acadiana prevented it.

Hours later, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans — one of the state’s COVID-19 hotspots with nearly 6,500 of the state’s 28,000 cases and 434 of the 1,862 deaths — said the city won’t participate.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski, who illustrated likely social distancing requirements between those two announcements Monday by stretching his arms between two outdoor tables at Cochon Butcher sandwich shop, said he fully supports both the governor and mayor.

“This is uncharted territory for all of us and I was caught daydreaming about a better tomorrow,” Stryjewski wrote in an emailed statement.

Officials in East Feliciana Parish, outside Baton Rouge, said Thursday that restaurants and other businesses could open at 25% of capacity. In LaSalle Parish, restaurants decided against participating in a similar expansion on advice from the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

Edwards has said the state Department of Health and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which have power to revoke permits, will enforce his order. He said he hopes any businesses found not to be complying will return to compliance.


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