NEW ORLEANS — Rollin Garcia was finally able to open the storm shutters on Bullet's, his 7th Ward barroom on Wednesday as the city of New Orleans finally rolled into Phase 3.3 of the coronavirus reopening plan.
But it'll be a far different vibe from the days when he could host hundreds who came to watch live music.
Bars can only open at 25 percent capacity. For Garcia, that means he can let 12 people inside. He’s not sure if he can operate profitably that way.
“I hope all 12 of them come to play the poker machines, because I sure can't make no money off of 12 people selling them alcohol,” he said.
Garcia is used to his place being packed with live music inside.
The move comes as the city continues to record low positivity rates. The city is at 1.2 percent, according to the most recent data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
That compares favorably to most of the state, but as happy as city officials are with the current numbers, they say they could roll back changes if the figures go in the wrong direction.
“I assure you, no one wants to go backwards,” said City Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno. “Nobody wants to see restrictions put back in place.”
Garcia understands. He contracted COVID this spring and he knows it is important to keep his customers and the city safe.
Garcia has put out about $3,000 for beer since he closed in March.
He says right now he’ll be lucky if he gets 10 customers. Inside.
But with or without customers, his bills keep coming.
“It’s been hard trying to pay the bills. If you keep picking off a piece of cheese, sooner or later you have no cheese.”
So Garcia will reopen now that he can.
The mask requirement and social distancing will be enforced, and there will be hand sanitizer and a sign-in book at the door.
He hopes for the best, but he fears another shutdown could happen.
“A lot of people are not following the mandates for social distancing, and it's going to come back to bite us,” he said.