BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Friday night (May 15) was the start of Phase 1 of reopening across Louisiana.
Downtown Baton Rouge has been basically empty for the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A ton of bars and various other businesses are still closed, but a few restaurants and bars that sell food, like Bengal Tap Room, are open.
For Lorrie Metrejean and Bryce Benzine, being able to eat and have a drink at Bengal Tap Room just feels nice.
“It feels okay to come outside and be served by a local place such as Bengal, and it feels good,” said Metrejean, a customer.
BTR sells food, right now on a scaled back menu, and has been open for the past couple of days, with people being able to chill on their patio, the tables 10 feet apart.
“We’re so excited to open up to the public again. We’ve missed all of our customers, so you know it’s a little different, but we’re really pumped to kind of get back in the game,” said Colette Crouere, a bartender at BTR.
Right now, you can’t sit inside there just yet, but you can order at the bar like usual and find a place to sit outside.
“We have our bar marked so we can make sure people are as far apart as possible," said Crouere. “So it’s going to be to-go cups, to-go boxes, and make sure everything’s as clean as possible.”
Employees wearing a mask, constantly washing their hands, and spraying down surfaces.
“As they [people] start going out, they’ll start seeing you know, we can keep this going if we take the proper protocols, just in order to get us going through these next phases to where we don’t possibly have to do these things in the future,” said Benzine, a customer.
Over at Capital City Grill, the restaurant was finally able to have people come and eat in their dining room again.
“To be told for over two months you cannot see your friends, you cannot see your families, you cannot go to restaurants, they’re so embedded in the culture that is what makes us be people from Louisiana, is really hard,” said Daniel Unda, general manager of Capital City Grill.
Unda says they’re obeying the 25% capacity rule and every employee is wearing a mask and trying to take orders from a distance.
“All of our staff is getting checked out for temperature regulations when they come in for their shifts. Nobody that has ever shown symptoms is allowed to come back for at least two to three weeks,” said Unda.
He says the best part is being able to see their customers once again.
“Hearing the laughter. That’s one of the things that we really missed a lot. And ‘Oh, this was so delicious, we really missed you guys, this was some of the best food we had.’ It really makes our job worthwhile,” said Unda.
A lot of people WAFB spoke with say this is just a little piece of freedom.
As a reminder, you of course don’t have to leave your house if you don’t want to. If you have a poor immune system or are 65 or older, you should probably wait until the next phase to venture out.
WAFB’s Lester Duhé went to downtown Baton Rouge Friday night to see who all was out and about.
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