Well-known bars reclassifying as restaurants to keep doors open

Some bars applying for food permits to get around COVID-19 shutdowns

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A handful of Baton Rouge bars have temporarily reclassified themselves as restaurants, allowing them to continue serving customers while other watering holes remain closed to the public.

Under Governor John Bel Edwards’ current coronavirus rules, bars are only allowed to serve drinks in to-go cups. Patrons are not allowed to linger on the premises, even outdoors.

However, businesses with restaurant permits can operate with reduced seating capacity and on-premises alcohol consumption. The state is permitting some establishments previously classified as bars to obtain temporary restaurant permits to stay afloat.

“That’s another indication of the efforts that we’re making to allow many of these bar owners as much flexibility as possible,” Gov. Edwards said. “Those who meet the requirements and ask for that permit are receiving them very quickly.”

The rules that apply to traditional restaurants will apply to reclassified bars, meaning patrons will have to sit down to receive service. Occupancy is limited to 50% and tables need to be separated, according to guidelines from the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LAOSFM).

“The rules that apply to restaurants today will apply to them,” Gov. Edwards explained. “They would function exactly like a restaurant, which would make them safer.”

The state also requires establishments with these types of permits to prove food orders generate more than half of their revenue, meaning establishments that have acquired the new type of permit are revamping their business models to lure more hungry customers.

“We have adjusted and changed and this pandemic has tested us,” MID TAP owner, Rick Patel, said.

His joint is one of 34 businesses operating under a temporary conditional restaurant permit.

“MID TAP is an experience and we want everyone to get the whole experience,” Patel continued. “You’re not going to be able to get that with to-go only.”

Patel’s bar expanded its food menu and beefed up happy hour deals, aiming to meet the state’s revenue threshold. He says to-go food orders remain key, but that MID TAP will also launch a weekend brunch in the next week or so.

At least 27 other businesses have applied for this type of permit, though not all of them previously operated as bars.

In Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) has also approved The Bulldog and Mid City Beer Garden for temporary restaurant status.

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