NEW ORLEANS — Tracey’s Original Irish Bar owner Jeff Carreras is irate. He says he's being unfairly targeted and improperly shut down by the city of New Orleans.
The trouble started with a Saints touchdown celebration posted on social media Monday night by Tracey's own Twitter account.
Like the Saints game itself, the end result was a loss for Tracey's.
“Obviously, we're on social media like everyone else,” mayoral spokesman Beau Tidwell said Tuesday. “We saw them, we were alerted to them and the Department of Safety and Permits is going to follow up with them.”
The Safety and Permits director issued a violation Wednesday, shutting down Tracey's until it can produce a new operations plan and get it approved by the city. The letter cited “failure to enforce mask requirements, allowing patrons to sit at the bar and failure to enforce social distancing."
"We are completely caught off-guard by the reaction of the Mayor's Office - Tracey's Original Irish Channel Restaurant was in complete compliance with the rules and regulations of Phase II," Carreras said. "We strictly enforced physical distancing, operated at less than 50% of our capacity, ensured customer's temperatures were taken, and mandated the wearing of masks when our guests were going to and leaving from their tables."
Under Phase II guidelines, bars with food permits are allowed 50 percent capacity with tables at least 6 feet apart. They must use a reservation system to track patrons' names, and nobody is allowed to sit at the bar.
City Councilwoman Helena Moreno said what she saw in the online videos was frustrating.
“We can't be having events like this and going backwards,” she said. “I mean, especially with everyone trying to push for the city to reopen again, that's not helpful by any means.”
Tracey's seems to have a reputation with City Hall. Mayor LaToya Cantrell went on Twitter in March and called a large St. Patrick's Day gathering there "irresponsible."
The city's violation letter is short on details. A video from another angle Monday shows what looks like socially distanced tables and staff wearing masks.
Carreras said nobody from the city came to see the set-up and he insists they had no violations.
"Our interior and exterior cameras show that we were in full, constant compliance with all guidelines of Phase II," he said. "We are entitled to due process and were not contacted by the Mayor's Office to address any concerns they had."
Asked if it’s possible that there was no flagrant violation at Tracey’s, Moreno said, “All I can say is that it certainly looked like there was a packed bar at Tracey's.”