NEW ORLEANS — Mardi Gras has arrived in New Orleans. But officials in the tourism-dependent city aren’t hoping for big crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus-related limits on access to Bourbon Street, shuttered bars and frigid weather all were expected to prevent what the city usually craves at the end of Mardi Gras season — streets and businesses jam-packed with revelers.
But parades were canceled and Mayor LaToya Cantrell recently ordered bars closed. Even bars that had been allowed to operate as restaurants with “conditional” food permits were shuttered for five days that began Friday. Take-out drinks in “go-cups” also are forbidden — no more strolling the French Quarter with a drink in hand.
Bourbon Street was to be blocked to automobile and foot traffic at 7 a.m., with access limited to residents, business managers and employees, hotel guests and restaurant patrons.
Live: Bourbon Street Cam
Various estimates showed hotels were likely to be anywhere from one-third to more than half full — far below the 90%-plus bookings of most years. And city and state officials all but warned tourists away.
“If people think they’re going to come to Louisiana, anywhere, or New Orleans and engage in the kind of activities they would have pre-pandemic then they are mistaken and quite frankly they are not welcome here to do that,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a recent news conference.
Another possible factor in crowd control: Freezing or near-freezing temperatures were in the Tuesday forecast.
It's Mardi Gras, but different. However, you can’t keep a good city down.
All around New Orleans, thousands of houses are being decorated as floats. Several mansions along a short stretch of St. Charles Avenue had elaborate displays with signs noting their creation by one of the city’s biggest float-making studios.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.