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Bars may not survive New Orleans' newest round of restrictions, bar manager says

“There are so many of us who are doing the right thing and trying to do the right thing by our community and here we are swept up as the bycatch yet again..."

NEW ORLEANS — As news of more restrictions pours into bars across New Orleans, bar manager Mark Schettler, at Bar Tonique in the French Quarter, feels bars like his are unnecessarily caught up in the city’s blanket response to a bigger problem.

“We’ve done everything we can,” Schettler said. “There are so many of us who are doing the right thing and trying to do the right thing by our community and here we are swept up as the bycatch yet again and I don’t know if we’re going to make it.”

With rises in new coronavirus cases, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced bar seating at bars and restaurants is no longer an option. Cantrell points to gatherings as being part of the problem in community spread. According to the state department of health, statewide there are 36 outbreaks of coronavirus traced back to bars, resulting in nearly 400 cases and 16 outbreaks traced back to restaurants, resulting in nearly 70 cases.

“Regardless if our bars are doing the right thing, meeting social distancing and the like, they really have been trying very hard. However, it’s bringing people together and it’s having an immediate impact,”  Cantrell said.  

To go orders and table seating will still stay in place, but at Bar Tonique, Schettler says bar seating is a third of capacity. That means another hit to revenue that already isn’t breaking even and a worry about staying in business.

“For most businesses this isn’t even about whether you think you can, whether you feel you can, the math will tell you, you cannot. This isn’t a judgement call,” Schettler said.

Mayor Cantrell says the point of new restrictions is to not go back to a complete shutdown. For Schettler, who says operating with safety in mind is priority, it’s frustrating.  

“We’ve been bending over backwards doing everything we can to try and stay afloat in a safe manner,” he said.  

The city is also adjusting gatherings in general. Inside gatherings will be limited to 25 people but doesn’t apply to restaurants and churches. That restrictions applies to private events. Outside gatherings will stay at a 100-person cap. These new restrictions begin Saturday morning.  

RELATED: New Orleans to cut out bar seating; limit indoor gatherings to 25 people

RELATED: Gov: Louisiana 'going in the wrong direction' in coronavirus fight

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