Bars in Ascension Parish forced to close due to high COVID-19 rates; owners feel targeted

Ascension Parish bars forced to close due to high coronavirus positivity rates; bar owners feel targeted by governor

PRAIRIEVILLE, La. (WAFB) - Bars in Ascension Parish were forced to close Friday, Nov. 13 by the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) after the parish reported COVID-19 positivity rates higher than 10% for two consecutive weeks.

Bars were operating at 25% capacity, which Landon Shatoska, the owner of Fat Cat in Prairieville, said was barely enough to keep the doors open.

"It’s been rough, Shatoska said. “We’re just trying to scrape by and keep our employees employed but we’re breaking even at best.”

When the pandemic first gripped Louisiana, forcing it to shut down for several months, Shatoska said he drained most of his savings trying to keep from shutting down permanently. Now he is faced with another shutdown, this time he is strapped for cash.

“We’ve got to beg, borrow and steal to stay open,” he said.

Shatoska said he feels bar owners like himself are being targeted by Gov. John Bel Edwards as restaurants and casinos are not being forced to close or limit capacities. Restaurants across the state can remain open at 75% capacity under the governor’s Phase 3 plan.

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“How can a casino stay open with all this capacity and stand elbow to elbow at the craps table but here we are shut down,” he said. “How can restaurants be at 75% capacity, elbow to elbow but we have to be shut down. What’s the difference? Because they’ve got French fries in front of them? I don’t believe so.”

Edwards said bar owners are not being targeted during his weekly press availability Friday, citing evidence of there being higher spread at bars than at restaurants.

Covid restriction fighting aside, though, Shatoska said his main focus now is on figuring out how he can not be forced to shut down permanently.

“I’ll be ok till first of the year hopefully but if it goes on for a whole other year or eight months, I don’t know,” he said.

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