Hundreds of bars apply to reopen as restaurants under special licenses

Local bars apply to reopen as restaurants to reopen

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Having been open now for only two days as a restaurant, there’s been some growing pains at Pirogue’s Whiskey Bayou Bar.

“We have really good people running the kitchen for us but yeah it’s been different,” said co-owner, Muriel Altikriti.

Louisiana bars have been closed under the Governor’s mandate since July, and co-owner, Muriel Altikriti says they had to get creative. While they already had a little kitchen, she says it’s not an easy switch to turn a bar into a restaurant.

“There was a bunch of dumb little stuff like getting trays and figuring out turning table numbers… honestly it wasn’t really an option we needed to get open we’re not making any money, we’re paying rent, we’re paying all the bills, so we had to get open. It was the only way to open was getting the restaurant conditional permit,” Altikriti said.

The state’s Alcohol Tobacco and Control office says more bars are applying for these conditional permits. Nearly 300 businesses have put in applications. The state’s approved roughly two-thirds of those.

Bars-turned-restaurants need to have a full kitchen, enough square footage and have at least 50 percent monthly food sales. Altikriti says it was an easy process to get their permit, it was getting the space up to compliance that was the most expensive.

“I’m lucky because of this outside space it really does make a huge difference for us if we can only have so many people in here this is a much more spaced out area, so I can put more tables and more people out here,” Altikriti said.

She says while it’s encouraging to be able to re-open one of her businesses, across the parish line in New Orleans a second bar she co-owns will stay closed, saying a conditional restaurant license there just wouldn’t be worth it.

“There’s no way to figure it out, I know tons of people who aren’t reopening because at 25 or 50 percent capacity it’s just not worth it… it’s really hard. My decision-making skills have gone down the tubes because I feel like we make a decision, we decide to go that route, something changes with the state the parish or whatever,” she said.

While she never wanted to become a restaurateur, Altikriti hopes her customers embrace the new concept.

“I think you try and be as creative as you can to get money coming in so you can stay afloat,” she said. The ATC says they’ve issued 187 total conditional restaurant permits in the state, with a couple of dozen pending approval.

These bars-turned-restaurants are also subject to other checks and other inspections.

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