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City Hall grant program to help restaurants expand outside seating

"We need all the help we can to get through the fall," restaurant owner Scot Craig said. "Any sort of help we can get from anybody, we're going to take..."

NEW ORLEANS — Due to tightening restrictions from City Hall and Baton Rouge, bars and restaurants in New Orleans won't be allowed to sell to-go cups as part of an effort to reverse a surge of COVID-19 cases. 

This latest change eliminates business for bars altogether and could hurt business for restaurants too, but to try and help restaurants in another way, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a new program.

"Any sort of help we can get from anybody, we're going to take because we need it to keep going," said Scot Craig who owns Katie's Restaurant and Bar in Mid-City, Francesca in Lakeview, and Bienvenue in Harahan.

Restrictions on restaurants and bars in New Orleans during the pandemic so far have made it difficult for owners to stay in business. Katie's took a big financial hit, Craig said.

"We've lost $1.2 million in sales since COVID started. That is a lot of money," Craig said. "We're getting creative."

At Francesca, a tent over parking spots has added some outdoor seating. Craig had a much larger tent over a parking lot outside Katie's, but that tent cost $6,000 a month to rent. Craig said he had to take it down.

"We couldn't do it, so if there's a grant where they want to help us with something like this — instead of spending $1,000 a month on a tent like this — I could buy my own," he said referencing the tent outside Francesca. 

The New Orleans City Council approved 'parklets' in May to allow restaurants to turn parking spaces into dining space. Friday, Cantrell announced the city was rolling out a $250,000 program to help restaurants expand outdoor seating.

"Yea, it could be very, very helpful," Craig said. 

RELATED: City Council approves parklets for outdoor dining in New Orleans

The individual grants of up to $6,000 will be available to local restaurants and other businesses to create more outdoor dining space. The money is intended to be used on any physical improvements needed to make that happen. 

"That can be tables, chairs, tents, misting systems to keep people cool, any types of innovative and creative ideas," Cantrell said Friday. 

"I would buy my own tent here (at Francesca) and at Katie's. We would spend the money to tent the other side, so we could have more outdoor dining. It would be a big help," Craig said, hoping he can take advantage of the program. "I don't see this ending anytime soon. We need all the help we can to get through the fall."

The program will begin with piloting curbside dining and parklets in five to seven commercial corridors over the coming month. It will then expand citywide. 

RELATED: 'Bar community will suffer' | City & state mandates shutdown New Orleans bars

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