Bars closed; public access to Bourbon, Frenchmen streets limited with NOPD-manned barricades for Mardi Gras due to COVID-19

(Photo: Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras 2020. | Sergey Galyonkin | CC Flickr)
Bars were ordered closed and public access to several French Quarter streets, including Bourbon Street, will be limited with barricades manned by New Orleans Police officers over the Mardi Gras holiday as measures announced last week and are meant to limit spread of COVID-19.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the additional restrictions on Feb. 5, less than two weeks after she lowered business restrictions to “modified Phase Two,” which increased capacity for restaurants and other retail establishments, office buildings, among other locations, by 50%; and increased gathering sizes.

The restrictions will go into effect starting 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12 and will last until 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Cantrell attributed her decision for extra measures to newly discovered variants of the coronavirus that could trigger a surge in cases and videos of Bourbon Street gatherings, which she blamed on college students.

“What we saw on Bourbon Street last weekeend, totally unacceptable,” Cantrell said at a Feb. 5 press conference. “Any mass gatherings have the potential of creating and being a superspreader in our community. This is dangerous.”

Positive coronavirus tests have trended downward in Orleans Parish, going from 265 new cases on Jan. 26 to 32 on Feb. 10, and 698 total deaths, according to data.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Department of Public Health director, gave an update last week: the city is averaging about two deaths each day, which she said was not unusual after a spike, but higher than the average for a “very, very long time.” But then, she also mentioned concern for the new coronavirus variants discovered in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brasil, which are thought to be more contagious.

A study released Feb. 8 and included researchers from Tulane and Louisiana State universities concluded that Mardi Gras 2020 likely contributed up to

“The highest risk activities are close gatherings where people let their guard down, take their masks off and are close to each other for periods of time,” Avegno said.

In case you fucking forgot, the additional restrictions include:

  • Bars, including conditional permits, closed indoors and outdoors citywide.
  • No packaged liquor in the French Quarter.
  • A ban on to-go drinks.
  • No large gatherings, including for vending and street performances.

Additionally, Bourbon, Frenchmen and Decatur streets will be closed to pedestrians and vehicles from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., although restaurants and retail stores can remain open for visitors and residents.

New Orleans Police will limit vehicles entering the French Quarter to residents, employers, hotel guests, restaurant/retail patrons and taxis/ride-sharing companies between the boundaries of Canal, North Rampart, Dumaine and Decatur streets between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Street closures include:

  • Decatur Street: closure between Dumaine and Toulouse streets.
  • Bourbon Street: limited access between Canal and Dumaine.
  • Frenchmen Street: limited access to the 500 to 600 blocks.

Manned barricades will be placed on Royal and Dauphine streets between Canal and Dumaine streets, and along portions of Frenchmen street. Visitors, residents and shop employees will be allowed access. No loitering is allowed.

At her Feb. 5 press conference, Cantrell said she’s hopeful the city can strike a necessary balance between a safe and fun Mardi Gras, and believes the city will benefit from the increased business capacity, despite bar closures.

Many hospitality industry workers and businesses, particularly the ones that thrive on liquor sales, are pissed because people will be put out of work during what is normally the city’s busiest time of year. The Alibi, located at 811 Iberville St., let off a little steam on social media.

“Alibi will be closed for Mardi Gras. Thanks to Mayor LaToya. Bars with kitchens and restaurant permits are being grouped with to-go bars, clubs, places that are just bars. Thank you mayor for putting my staff and all lthe other service staff out of work for Mardi Gras. I’m sure all service industry not working appreciates your work.”