NEW ORLEANS — At any other time, the New Orleans hospitality industry would welcome a crowd like the city had this weekend in the French Quarter.
But not during a pandemic.
Saturday night, visitors packed Bourbon Street, shoulder to shoulder, many of them not wearing masks.
The Sanders sisters from San Francisco were in the crowd.
“A lot of stuff was closed, but there were still people out all night,” Deangela Sanders said. “It was a big crowd. Stuff was crowded. There were lines to get into the stores. There was a lot of people. I was surprised, actually.”
“Everybody was drinking so, they weren’t worried about no masks, really,” Adaiya Sanders said. “There was no social distancing. It was fun through. It really was.”
It was the first weekend under the city's Phase 3.2 coronavirus-prevention measures.
Bars were allowed to serve up to 50 customers on site.
But they had to be seated outdoors.
Marisa Wolfcale, manager of the St. Louis Market just off of Bourbon, said she had her busiest weekend since the Coronavirus shutdown in March.
“The people that want to be careful, better stay home, just to be honest,” Wolfcale said. “The people that want to come out, I think they have that right too, that’s just my opinion.”
The city is now investigating 30 business non-compliance complaints from over the weekend.
They include people not wearing face coverings, large crowds and tables not being 6 feet apart.
In a series of tweets, city officials stated, “Our people have put in the work which has allowed us to ease restrictions, but actions that lead to super spreader events will not be condoned.”
Visitors like this Clarence Clair from Chicago say they came to New Orleans for a good time, despite the risks.
“My birthday was yesterday, so I guess I’m a little what they call fatigued from it,” Clair said. “I just took a chance, got on plane from Chicago, came down here and just kept my fingers crossed.”
An 11 p.m. shutdown rule for alcohol sales is also being enforced in the French Quarter.
In a related story, the Audubon Zoo was among the businesses where people complained about large crowds and patrons not wearing masks.
A spokeswoman for the zoo told WWL-TV, their attendance over the weekend was well below city restrictions which she said increased to 75% of capacity under Phase 3.
She also said most visitors are wearing face coverings, but the zoo added new signage and roaming monitors to ensure compliance with the city’s mask mandate.