Gov. Edwards Officially Extends Phase 2 Order, Statewide Mask Mandate, Bar Closure to Continue to Slow the Spread of Covid-19 in Louisiana
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an extension of his order keeping Louisiana in Phase Two and extending his statewide mask mandate, the closure of bars to on-premises consumption and the limitation on gatherings of more than 50 people for at least another 21 days, through Friday, August 28.
Gov. Edwards’ order to mandate masks and restrict bars matches recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the advice of public health experts advising the Governor. The Governor’s order was upheld by Judge Janice Clark in the 19th Judicial District Court today.
The Governor’s order is largely unchanged from his previous one. The new order does remove a provision that allowed parishes to opt out of the statewide mask mandate if their parish dropped below a certain incidence level of COVID. No parish meets this requirement, and recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force support a statewide mandate.
Louisiana has seen modest improvements in its COVID-19 situation in recent days, following the Governor’s mask mandate and bar restrictions. Reports of COVID-like illness, case counts and hospitalizations are trending down statewide, per data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
“We’re just asking everyone to do your part and to understand that the progress we have started to see over the last several days is positive, but we can lose it. If we do what we did after Memorial Day, we will lose our positive gains,” Gov. Edwards said. “On the other hand, if more people will comply with the mitigation measures, we will actually accelerate the improvements we are making and they will be long lasting. We can lower our transmission rate and save lives. We’ve got a long way to go, but I am optimistic that we are going to get there. We have flattened the curve once, and we can do it again by doubling down on these effective, proven mitigation measures.”
Click below to watch National Restaurant Association Vice President Sean Kennedy provide a 90 second update on where things stand in Washington, D.C. and where the National Restaurant Association's focus is right now.
As Congress works to craft the next phase of COVID-19 response legislation, the National Restaurant Association appreciates the bipartisan consensus developed for a number of items important to our industry. We will continue to press for adoption of a broader industry-specific recovery plan but would like to provide our perspective on the proposals currently in discussion for inclusion.
Several provisions included in the recent Democratic and Republican recovery plans would help provide critical relief to restaurants and employees. These include:
The National and Louisiana Restaurant Associations support these components, many of which are contained in the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, and we urge you to include them in any final agreement. Read full letter here.
Tell Congress: Stop the Surprise PPP Tax LiabilityDid you know that restaurant operators who had Protection Program (PPP) loans forgiven may lose some key tax deductions, creating a surprise tax liability? And that the majority of restaurants might not be eligible for a new round of PPP funding? These two critical issues are why you need to take action now to protect restaurants from a surprise tax liability.
Congress needs to hear from restaurants now. Negotiations are ongoing for this final relief package and time is of the essence! CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION
The City of New Orleans' renewal deadline for Alcohol Beverage Operator (ABO) permits is being extended again until Aug. 31, 2020. (The previously extended deadline was July 31). ABO expiration deadline will extend through Sept. 30, 2020. (The previously extended expiration deadline was July 31, 2020).
The City continues to process a substantial number of permits, as the Office of Safety and Permits is open for emailed submissions. Payments also are being accepted online.
Residents may also drop off payments at City Hall.
For any questions, email the ABO staff at ABO@nola.gov.
The National Restaurant Association today sent a letter to the National Governors Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to set the record straight on the safety efforts restaurants are taking during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter highlights how the industry was highly regulated by state and federal requirements before the pandemic and has stepped up its safety protocols to meet new state and federal mandates for reopening. The Association also dispels some of the inaccurate information about the industry that continues to dot media coverage, social media conversations, and statements from some public officials.
When states began to think about coming out of the pandemic shutdown this spring, the Association worked with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), academia, the Conference for Food Protection, public health officials and industry representatives, to produce a detailed Restaurant Reopening Guidance on how to reopen in a safe way for employees, customers, and their communities.
“Throughout this public health crisis, the National Restaurant Association has been focused on making the latest and most important scientific information about the novel coronavirus and the latest best practices for operation during the pandemic easily available to the industry,” said Larry Lynch, senior vice president for Science and Industry. “Our owners, operators, and employees truly believe that we are all in this together and share an unwavering commitment to customer and employee safety.”
Restaurants have lost more jobs and more revenue than any other sector of the economy because of the pandemic—and it will be among the slowest to recover. At the height of the shutdowns, the industry shed two-thirds of all jobs, and March-June, it lost more than $145 billion in revenue. Since the start of July, nearly 100,000 dining rooms have been shuttered again by state or local mandate putting people out of work and costing owners thousands in lost reopening investments.
“Closing restaurants a second time puts dangerous strain on an industry that is struggling to stay afloat,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of Public Affairs. “Restaurants do not open and close as easily as flipping an on/off switch. Making modifications for social distancing, purchasing PPE, training staff on new safety protocols, and stocking kitchens for increased service all add to a restaurant’s bottom line. The fewer people we can serve, the more money we lose, and the less likely it is that the cornerstone restaurant in a community survives.”
Read the full letter to the National Governors Association here.
Mayor Cantrell Announces New Restrictions to Help Reduce Community Spread of Covid-19 in New Orleans
Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced new restrictions as part of the City’s efforts to stem the community spread of COVID-19 that has increased over the course of the Phase Two reopening period that began on June 13. Effective Saturday, July 25, at 6 a.m., the City is prohibiting all takeout and drive-thru alcohol sales. Bars — regardless of whether they have a Louisiana Department of Health food permit — and restaurants will no longer be allowed to make takeout or drive-thru sales of alcoholic beverages.
“We understand the impact this is having on our bar community. Moving into Phase Two, we were very much focused on our economy and those industries that make up that community. Unfortunately, we have seen the negative impact that has had on the City of New Orleans," said Mayor Cantrell. "What happens next depends on what we do right now."
“As you have heard us say over and over again, our primary goal at this point in the pandemic is to suppress the virus so that we can safely send kids back to school. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. And looking at the trends in new cases — many of which continue to be linked to social gatherings and bars — we do not believe we will get there under the current restrictions,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director, New Orleans Health Department. “It’s important to note here that the closure of bars is a strong recommendation for Louisiana made by the White House Coronavirus Task Force due to the surge of cases in the state. We agree that restricting the activities that clearly continue to be linked to new cases is common sense. We all agree that the best place for kids to be is in the classroom. So let this be a motivator for all of us. We owe it to the next generation.”
“Mayor Cantrell has taken courageous steps today to protect the citizens of New Orleans. Her bold actions will save lives, and I, too, am asking bars and businesses to adhere to the regulations to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our city. I support Mayor Cantrell’s decision to prohibit the takeout of alcoholic beverages, especially after seeing recent photos from Bourbon Street showing crowds of people in close proximity. One of the challenges is allowing businesses along Bourbon Street to stay open when they are so close together, creating a partying atmosphere that doesn’t easily allow for social distancing. We have to put the health of our citizens first,” said District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who represents the French Quarter.
At this time, the City will continue with its current social gathering restrictions. Indoor gatherings will remain limited to 25 individuals; outdoor gatherings will remain limited to 50 individuals. All gathering participants must wear masks and practice social distancing.
Since the City moved to Phase Two, the City has seen unfavorable trends in COVID-19 data. Currently there have been 9,752 cases and 548 deaths in Orleans Parish. There has been an almost doubling of the daily average cases to approximately twice the threshold of 50 cases a day. There’s been an increase in the positivity rate from 2-3 percent to over 6 percent. There also has been a more than doubling of the COVID-19 positive hospitalization rates with overall saturation of the local healthcare system, as well as increased overflow burden from the rest of the state and Mississippi. This is a clear indication that the city has returned to widespread community transmission. Mayor Cantrell expressed concern that there is a very narrow window to act and turn the situation around in order to get area students back to school safely.
With the new restrictions also come new opportunities for residents and business owners. The City announced a new incentive grant program for restaurants to support and expand their operations. Individual grants up to $6,000 will be available to local restaurants and other businesses that wish to add or expand their outside dining. This funding will allow for any physical improvements needed for outside dining. The program will begin with piloting curbside dining and parklets in five to seven commercial corridors over the coming month, and then the program will expand citywide soon after.
The City has already waived permitting and inspection fees to expand outdoor seating. For this program, approximately $200,000 to $250,000 in funding will be available, depending on need and benefit.
The City is also launching a virtual BuildNOLA Small Business Training Program in partnership with Delgado Community College and other local and regional partners. Registration opens today and will continue through Aug. 24, 2020. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can register at www.buildnola2020.com.
Dr. Avegno also announced that the federal government has agreed to send surge testing resources to New Orleans. These resources — similar to what is being offered in Baton Rouge — will allow the City to significantly increase the number of tests offered to residents in the region daily. The program will be supported by the Louisiana National Guard and will begin next Tuesday (July 28) at the UNO Lakefront Arena as a drive-thru testing site with the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rotations will be made in the weeks to come at the sites of university partners around the city.
More information will be available on ready.nola.gov/testing.
Residents are encouraged to continue the best practices to suppress the spread of this virus:
Any retail establishment holding a Class AG (bar) permit may be issued a restaurant conditional permit if it also meets the requirements for a Class AR (restaurant) permit during the hours from 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. The restaurant conditional permit allows a Class AG (bar) permit holder to operate as a Class AR (restaurant) permit holder between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., which includes the ability to allow persons under the age of 18 years on the licensed premises during these hours.
To be considered, the Class AG permit holder must have an existing La. Dept. of Health food service permit and a fully-equipped kitchen. There is a no additional fee, however, the application found here must be completed and submitted. It changes the primary purpose during the 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. time frame from bar to restaurant and food must be served all days of operation.
While this is not automatic, bar owners with significant existing food sales may choose to consider this. It expires the same date as their existing Class AG permit. Ultimately, to renew the restaurant conditional permit, the operation will need to have at least 50 percent from food/non-alcoholic beverage sales.
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday announced that he will extend Louisiana’s current Phase Two order, which also includes a statewide mask mandate, limits indoor social gatherings to 50 people and prohibits on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars for another two weeks, as COVID-19 incidence remains high across the state and hospitalizations continue to rise. All of the latest restrictions outlined in the Phase Two order are in keeping with recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The order is set to expire on the morning of Friday, July 24. The new order, which will be issued later this week, will run through August 7. The Governor added the mask mandate and other restrictions to an order that went into effect July 13.
As of July 15, all regions of Louisiana had a 7-day average positivity of new tests that was greater than 10 percent and the overall statewide positivity rate was 15.46 percent. The state’s aim is for this rate to be below 10 percent.
“We are seeing a high percent of new tests coming back as positive, increased hospitalizations over the past 14 days and a high incidence rate across the state, which means Louisiana is not ready to move to Phase Three,” Gov. Edwards said. “We will continue with our current restrictions to see if we can slow the spread in Louisiana over the next two weeks. I believe in the people of Louisiana, who have already been able to flatten the curve once, and who I know can do it again. Please wear your face mask when you are in public, wash your hands frequently, stay 6 feet away from others and stay home when you are sick. Additionally, federal surge testing is going on in key areas of the state. If you have access to this free testing, please take the opportunity to get tested. You can pre-register at www.doineedacovid19test.com.”
During the last few weeks, I have spoken with several reporters from a variety of publications that cover our industry. As a part of the interviews, they often ask the expected questions about declining sales and job losses related to the start/stop reopening pattern we’re seeing. They inquire about the steps we’re taking as an industry to keep our customers and employees safe, and they want to know what it is going to take for the industry to rebound. Without hesitation, I tell these reporters that at the National Restaurant Association and Educational Foundation, supporting the industry’s comeback is our number one priority, and government, businesses, and customers all play a role.
Yesterday, the Association released its Blueprint for Restaurant Revival. This plan of action outlines how the federal government can not only ensure our short-term survival as an industry, but also includes a long-term plan to enable us to continue to be the cornerstone of every community. Among several key tax proposals, the Blueprint reinforces the need for a restaurant recovery fund to provide structured relief to foodservice establishments, a second installment of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), expenses paid with a forgiven PPP loan to be tax deductible, and calls for more funding and improved terms for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Many restaurants are not even breaking even right now but continue to stay open for their communities and employees. It’s important to know that when restaurants ask for assistance from the government, they are asking for help to survive the current environment, not thrive.
The Blueprint also calls on Congress to help restaurants do what they do best: serve others. To do that, we must keep our workforce healthy and at work through priority access to COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution as well as enacting payroll tax relief for essential workers, including restaurant employees. We are proud to be the cornerstone of every community, and this Blueprint asks Congress to help us continue to supply meals to vulnerable populations by providing federal funding to programs that connect state and local agencies with restaurants that can feed their communities. In my role, I am often asked what people can do to help. Please consider contacting your member of Congress and asking them to support the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival.
During these media interviews, I make a point to emphasize the entrepreneurial spirit that is pervasive across our industry. Restaurants, like every small business, have found ways to keep serving customers safely by creating delivery and take-out options where there were none, enhancing existing off-premises options, and using technology in new ways to facilitate as many contactless connections as possible. We know that those are just the things that customers and the media see on the outside and that the industry is doing so much more. To that end, I am also sharing with reporters our ServSafe Dining Commitment and free COVID-19 training and resources to illustrate what we’re doing in the back of the house to build upon our legacy of operational and safety excellence.
Finally, I am asking all of our customers for help. Recently, there has been a flurry of media reports suggesting restaurants are to blame for the rise in COVID-19 cases. We are aggressively pushing back on this narrative and reminding customers that we all share responsibility for keeping ourselves and others safe, and we cannot place blame on a single industry. In our statement we assert, “Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA’s Food Code and have taken new steps to meet social distancing guidelines required by state and federal officials. We all have responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing. We continue to urge restaurants to follow the National Restaurant Association’s Reopening Guidance in addition to CDC, FDA, and state and local guidelines. Additionally, we ask all of our customers to help us keep our employees and their fellow diners safe by following all of the existing guidelines.”
In the coming days, we are likely to see more states pull back or pause reopening plans, with restaurants and their employees being among the hardest hit. Working alongside our state restaurant association partners, we will continue to advocate for policies that help restaurants serve their customers and communities safely and push back on irresponsible reporting that unfairly places blame on our industry for the rise in cases.
Whether you’re dining in responsibly or enjoying restaurant food off-premises, please join me in supporting our industry in whatever way possible.
President & CEO
National Restaurant Association
The National Restaurant Association sent the “Blueprint for Restaurant Revival” to Congress. The comprehensive policy and legislative plan outlines specific and immediate action the federal government should take to stabilize the industry in the short-term and set the foundation for long-term rebuilding.
“In just the past two weeks, state and local government mandates have shut down almost 100,000 restaurants,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of Public Affairs for the Association. “Since the restaurant industry was first shuttered, the National Restaurant Association and our State Restaurant Association partners have led the call at the federal, state, and local level for policies that will allow us not to profit, but simply to survive this pandemic. Despite losing more jobs and revenue than any other industry in this country, Congress has chosen not to advance a recovery package that is tailored for the unique challenges of a restaurant on the cusp of bankruptcy.”
The Blueprint focuses on three main areas where Congress can act to make significant changes that would support restaurants of every size and operational model in communities across the country.
These areas include:
Read the full Blueprint for Restaurant Revival here.
State Treasurer John M. Schroder encourages Louisiana business owners to visit the Main Street Recovery Program’s new website, www.louisianamainstreet.com, to find out if they’re eligible for up to $15,000 in grant money. The application portal function of the site will go live on July 28.
"Later this month, businesses can start applying for money to help cover COVID 19-related expenses. We expect this money to go fast,” said Treasurer Schroder. “The new website contains key information and answers commonly asked questions. You can take a simple quiz to find out if your business is eligible. This is a great resource.”
Act 311 set aside $275 million for the Main Street Recovery Program. For the first 21 days, grants will be given to businesses who didn’t receive federal assistance or insurance payments. Within 60 days, the program plans to award $40 million to businesses owned by veterans, minorities and women.
Information that can be found on the website includes: