BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Bars in East Baton Rouge Parish can reopen immediately, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco (ATC) says.
This comes after the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council met Wednesday, Sept. 30 to decide whether or not bars could reopen after the parish met the Louisiana Department of Health’s (LDH) criteria for doing so.
“We have the numbers that provide us an opportunity for reopening our bars, the commissioner of the ATC has approved by request, my letter,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
At the metro council meeting Wednesday afternoon, not enough council members voted “yes” to allow bars to reopen; only seven out of 12 metro council members attended the meeting to vote.
The meeting was originally sponsored by Jennifer Racca, Matt Watson, Dwight Hudson, Denise Amoroso, and Chandler Loupe.
Councilman Loupe, an original sponsor of the meeting, did not attend the virtual meeting Wednesday. Councilwomen Chauna Banks, Donna Collins-Lewis, Tara Wicker, and LaMont Cole also did not attend the meeting.
Six council members voted for the measure. Councilwoman Erika Green broke the quorum and abstained from the vote. Seven votes are needed in the metro council for a measure to pass or fail.
“Those 600 businesses are not going to be able to open, and those thousands of workers are not going to get to go back to work until this afternoon,” said Councilman Trae Welch.
“It’s frustrating, we don’t understand why they can’t go in and do the jobs they’re elected to do. It was literally a 15-minute zoom call and they couldn’t be there,” said Wayne Shelton, bartender at George’s Place.
After being closed for most of 2020, the staff over at George’s Place was actually having a watch party, as they anxiously awaited the council’s decision. They were heartbroken when the news broke the place had to stay closed.
“Let’s get these businesses reopened. These are local businesses, these are people that vote for you. and there’s an election coming up. So let’s see what we can do,” said Shelton.
However, the mayor’s office shared a statement from the ATC afterwards saying bars did not need the metro council’s approval after all.
Bars can now immediately operate under eased restrictions, as outlined by the ATC.
EBR Parish met the state’s requirements for bars to reopen Wednesday after LDH reported parish’s percentage of COVID-positive tests had remained under 5% for the last two weeks. On Wednesday, LDH reported a positive test rate of 3.10% in the parish between Sept. 17 and Sept. 23, down from 4.10%, reported between Sept. 10 and Sept. 16.
“I am very pleased with the tremendous progress we have made in East Baton Rouge Parish since the pandemic came to our community nearly eight months ago,” said Mayor Broome. “Let us all continue to be vigilant in our fight against the coronavirus by wearing masks and practicing social distancing. United, we can protect our health and economy.”
“We’re a little small bar under the bridge, and so, we’ve been having to just wait for this news. So we’ve been having a great day today,” said Joe Martin, owner of Brickyard South.
The folks over at Brickyard South were also glued into the back and forth today between the mayor’s office and the council. But now he’s just happy to finally be opening his place back up safely.
“This is when it’s really exciting to be in Baton Rouge. There’s electricity in the air, and I think that being part of a local bar is where you really feel that electricity during football season and Halloween. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we get to just stay open,” said Martin.
Three other parishes in the Baton Rouge area (East Feliciana, Pointe Coupee, and West Baton Rouge) also met the state’s criteria for bars to reopen Wednesday.
Pointe Coupee Parish government officials announced Wednesday the parish has requested to opt-in for on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars.
Once “opt-in” status is granted, businesses can operate under eased restrictions outlined in Governor John Bel Edwards’ executive order.
As outlined in the governor’s executive order, stricter restrictions can and will resume if there are two consecutive one-week periods of 10% test positivity or greater reported on LDH’s website.
In Phase 3, bars that are allowed to reopen must operate under the following minimum restrictions:
- Bars may reopen and offer table-side service only. Standing and bar service will be prohibited.
- Indoor capacity shall be limited to a 25% occupancy rate or 50 people, whichever is less
- Outdoor capacity shall be limited to 50 people and only for table-side service
- Tables shall be spaced in accordance with Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal social distancing guidelines
- Bars and other Class AG permit holders including daiquiri shops must cease all sale and service of alcoholic beverages and close no later than 11 p.m.
- No person under the age of 21 shall be allowed on to the premises
- Live music is prohibited
Click here for more information about businesses reopening under Phase 3.
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