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New Orleans city council is working on a plan to control Mardi Gras crowds in a COVID world

Large gatherings are not safe in this environment and they will not be permitted, not for Mardi Gras day or the days leading up to it.”

NEW ORLEANS — The Mardi Gras that New Orleanians and visitors are used to includes packed streets, people in costumes and large gatherings to celebrate but this year, as a global pandemic continues, the party won't be the same.

During a news conference Tuesday, the city’s communication director said the mayor’s office is working with the New Orleans Police Dept. to develop a plan to keep people spaced for the holiday which traditionally brings hundreds of thousands of people together.

"We remain in an unsafe environment,” said Beau Tidwell. “Large gatherings are not safe in this environment and they will not be permitted, not for Mardi Gras day or the days leading up to it.”

It’s unclear what the enforcement will be like or how strict it will be. Tidwell said the NOPD is creating a plan to keep Mardi Gras from turning into a super-spreader event. The added concerns come as videos continue to surface showing large crowds, including one taken over the weekend on Bourbon Street.

 It showed many crowds of people, mostly unmasked. The new video leads to concerns that Fat Tuesday could cause a fat health problem. Tidwell says the gathering is unacceptable and the enforcement on Mardi Gras could mirror what has been seen on other recent holidays. 

“Much along the lines of what we did on New Years Eve, there are a number of options that are potentially at play. For Chief (Shaun) Ferguson all options are on the table,” said Tidwell.  

On Tuesday night, bartender Brandon Beam at Local 718 called the videos disheartening.

“They are putting a lot of people at risk, who are just trying to keep their job,” said Beam. “It’s really hard to have a steady job especially on Bourbon Street and make sure everything is going the way it should be.” 

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she welcomes visitors to come for Mardi Gras, as long as they follow the rules. A search of hotel rooms in the area for Fat Tuesday shows there is still plenty of availability.

Not every night on Bourbon is busy and Beam said the days are pretty slow. He hopes Mardi Gras can be a safe balance between what is seen during the day and what is sometimes seen at night.

“I have a main worry. I don’t want a lot of people to come through from the wishes of the mayor and then the bars get blamed for something that was out of our control,” said Beam. “It’s hard to enforce when there are so many people. We try our best but we could absolutely end up getting blamed.” 

In the Marigny --Brieux Carré Brewing owner Robert Bostick is not expecting huge crowds. Last weekend for Krewe du Vieux, their profits were 20 percent of what they were on the same day last year.

“Everyone is just sort of prepped up for a slower season than normal,” said Bostick. 

The city says a plan to enforce crowds will be released in the coming days.

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