Hotel Monteleone reopens after 2-month COVID-19 shutdown

(Photo: digboston | CC)
The Hotel Monteleone reopened on June 1, the first time since shutting down in March following the mandatory business shutdowns in New Orleans to prevent spread of COVID-19.

The hotel opened with policies in place, such as social distancing, to reduce coronavirus spread between guests, employees and the community.

The iconic hotel, which was built in 1886, has 570 rooms and is known for the Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge, which is a rotating bar.

The bar was allowed to open in the March 16 “Phase 1” reopening of businesses because it also sells food.

Louisiana entered “Phase 2” reopening on June 4, which also allows bars to reopen at 25% capacity. New Orleans is the only part of the state that’s still in Phase 1.

Galatoire’s CEO Melvin Rodrigue asks Trump for restaurant PPP loan extensions in White House meeting

(Photo: Peter Clark | CC)
Restaurant industry leaders, including Galatoire’s Melvin Rodrigue, attended a roundtable meeting with President Donald Trump last week to discuss the federal government’s ability to extend relief measures for businesses affected by the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Rodrigue, who’s also Chair of the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors, and other owners of restaurants big and small gathered at the White House May 18 to advocate to the president for the extension of certain loan provisions of the Paycheck Protection Program.

The program offered small businesses $669 billion worth of low-interest private loans through the Small Business Administration to pay for operating expenses and keep employees on payrolls during coronavirus lockdowns. It’s considered the main piece of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27.

Rodigue stressed the need for loan extensions for restaurants, citing a slow recovery as coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a May 16 phased reopening of businesses, including restaurants, which are required to abide by certain requirements, such as continued social/physical distancing of 6 feet or more and a 25% seating capacity.

“We rely on social interaction,” Rodrigue said, adding the reduced seating capacity will make comeback difficult. “When we reopen at 25 percent, we’ll lose more money than last week because now we’re incurring expenses.”

Specifically, restaurants seek to extend two deadlines in the law that make them eligible for loan forgiveness.

One is extending a June 30 deadline to Oct. 31, or longer, in order to give restaurants more time to hire and retain employees as lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted; and the other is extending an eight week deadline to spend the loan on restaurant expenses such as payroll, rent and utilities.

The federal government gave businesses the chance to meet loan forgiveness eligibility based on how many employees are rehired by June 30 and then kept on the payroll for at least eight weeks.

Additionally, restaurant owners requested an extension of the duration of time in which they have to spend the loaned money upon receipt—from eight weeks to 24 weeks.

The city received more than 19 million visitors in 2019, or a 6.7% increase from last year, according to the city’s tourism bureau, although Rodrigue indicated it will take months for restaurants to bounce back from another disaster.

“We survived Hurricane Katrina,” Rodrigue said. “We’ve survived the BP oil spill. Restauranteurs are a [resilient group].”

Changes in the law require Congressional approval, although the Senate was unable to come to a vote on Thursday. The House is considering similar legislation.

In addition, Trump teased the possibility of a payroll tax deductions and liability protections for small businesses in order to protect against coronavirus-related lawsuits. Although several restaurant leaders welcome those measures, they touted the PPP extensions as an important first step to reopening.

Read the entire transcript of the White House roundtable meeting.

The Tahyo, ‘Pit Bulls & Parolees’ gift shop on lower Decatur Street, closes due to COVID-19 shutdown

A gift shop connected to “Pit Bulls and Parolees” reality TV show located on lower Decatur Street, has closed earlier this month, citing the COVID-19 mandatory shutdowns.

In a statement posted to social media on May 15, Villalobos Rescue Center announced that The Tahyo, located at 1224 Decatur St., closed for good following a prolonged shutdown due to coronavirus.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a March 16 executive order that closed businesses as part of a measure to contain spread of the virus. On May 16, Cantrell began easing restrictions and instituted a phased reopening of the city.

The shop was one of the first to close following the initial outbreak of the virus several months ago, according to Tia Torres, who runs the nonprofit all-breed dog rescue shelter and focus of the TV show.

Torres’ daughter Mariah ran the lower Decatur Street shop to help support the dogs housed by her mother’s rescue.

“We could not hold up against the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of mandatory shutdowns,” according to a May 15 statement released by The Tahyo. “We enjoyed our time on Decatur St and will miss our FQ family.”

The store will continue to exist, however, in its online form at thetahyo.com. Sales proceeds go to support Villalobos dog rescue, which costs approximately $4 million a year to operate, according to its website.

Cafe du Monde reopens for in-dining service as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted

(Photo: jc.winkler | CC Flickr)
Cafe du Monde reopened on Friday for the first time since closing its doors in March due to COVID-19.

The coffee and beignet shop, located at 800 Decatur St., is now open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the week as part of the May 16 phased reopening and easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in New Orleans.

Normally open 24 hours a day, the restaurant and must-see stop for tourists was forced to cease in-dining operations and use take-out or delivery services following Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s March 16 stay-at-home order issued as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As the lockdown progressed, the restaurant also maintained its mail order operations by shipping coffee and beignet mix.

Cafe du Monde also ceased operations following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and received national media attention when it reopened nearly two months later.

The phased reopening is based on several conditions, including that coronavirus cases continue to drop and that people continue following public health guidelines such as social/physical distancing at least 6 feet apart from each other, according to the city’s safe reopening page.

Read more on the city’s reopening plan at ready.nola.gov.

Cafe du Monde, 800 Decatur St., 504-525-4544, open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week; cafedumonde.com.

Unique Grocery on Royal Street ordered to shut down for not regulating social distancing

The Yard opens near lower French Quarter; replaces NOLA Cantina

(Photo: the courtyard of NOLA Cantina, now The Yard. Michelle Q | Yelp)
The Yard, a restaurant and full-service bar located at 405 Frenchmen St. at the corner of Esplanade Avenue, opened on Wednesday.

According to its Facebook page, The Yard is a concept by the owners of the French Quarter’s Backspace Bar and Kitchen, Robert Watters—who founded RCI Hospitality Holdings, which owns Rick’s Cabaret.

The Yard replaced NOLA Cantina, which was also owned by Watters, according to state business filings, and was reported closed sometime in January.

The new Frenchmen/Esplanade location comes with indoor and courtyard dining and a menu that includes items such as Cuban sandwiches, burgers, wings, wraps and Cajun poutine.

The Yard, 405 Frenchmen St., 504-266-2848. Open 12 to 10 p.m. Mask required for entry.