The Louisiana Restaurant Association regretfully announces its annual “Taste of Mardi Gras” will not take place in 2021 due to capacity and other restrictions related to Covid-19. Historically, this event, held on the Friday preceding Mardi Gras, is a staple for nearly 2,000 carnival enthusiasts in Alexandria and the surrounding area.
“The coronavirus continues to take its toll on our economy and now our Mardi Gras celebrations,” said LRA Cenla Chapter President Scott Laliberte of Diamond Grill. “While this event is an institution in our community, there is no appropriate manner to execute the event within the safety guidelines required to prevent the spread of this virus. The safety and health of our participants, sponsors and the community is front of mind to us all.”
Taste of Mardi Gras is the LRA Cenla Chapter’s largest philanthropic event featuring a sampling of cuisine and beverages from local restaurants, vendors, bars, musicians and caterers. Each year, the LRA’s Cenla Chapter selects a local charitable organization to receive a portion of the proceeds from the event. It also provides financial support to LRA activities including the LRA Educational Foundation which executes the ProStart curriculum in high schools in the area. The LRAEF and ProStart provide skills development to promote the restaurant industry as a career choice through its restaurant management and culinary arts program at three central Louisiana high schools. Event revenue additionally has funded the LRA Cenla Chapter Scholarship, which has provided up to $5,000 in post-secondary financial aid to a qualified student.
“As restaurants, we are required to downsize our dining room guest capacity, practice social distancing and keep our storefronts sanitized,” explained Laliberte. “Deciding that its best to skip our 2021 event and begin to plan for the 2022 Taste of Mardi Gras is another example of stewardship of the hospitality industry.”
Well, well, well.. who could have predicted a year like 2020? To say it came with many challenges for our industry probably is the understatement of the year. I can tell you though, I've never been more proud of the industry that I’ve spent a large portion of my life in. Seeing it from both sides of the business has been both interesting and overwhelming at times. I have watched my fellow restaurant peeps adapt in ways that I would never imagined. We’ve seen everything from outside dining, drive through windows, creative to-go options, and delivery. There are many that have changed their online presence to adapt to the new norm just to keep their doors open. We are the most resilient industry I know!
We have also seen things on the broad line side we never thought we would. Watching the world shut down is a scary thing when you’re sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars of inventory. Many broad liners quickly adapted and moved into new markets as the shutdown continued to progress and people weren't moving around as much. All fresh product quickly sold, was donated, or moved into a freezer. The items they couldn't sell was transitioned over to the retail side to help feed everyone on lockdown. The market has moved in all directions as meat prices quickly skyrocketed, only to have the bottom fall out a few months later with processing plants shutting down because they couldn't find employees. Despite all the craziness, our industry kept fighting.
We have scratched, pulled, punched and kicked to get through 2020. I have learned to never ask, “What else you got 2020?" Many of us have endured everything 2020 has thrown at us, and we are ready for it all to be over and to get back to what we do best. We are in the business of putting smiles on faces, and I pray 2021 will be our year.
I can't wait to give everyone a hug.
LRA Bayou Chapter President
“As is the case with many government regulated practices (i.e. building permits, etc.), the possession of an ATC alcohol permit is a privilege - not a right. When a business owner submits a permit application, he/she agrees to uphold ALL federal, state and local laws and to be otherwise “suitable” to be trusted with selling/serving a controlled product to the general public within the state. The system is set up this way so as to protect the public from unscrupulous vendors and potentially dangerous products. In fact, state law provides that it is a criminal offense if a citizen engages in the selling/serving of alcohol products without a permit.
The Governor’s authority to address this unprecedented public health challenge through proclamation has been challenged, but ultimately upheld in every case. The ATC, as a regulatory arm of the executive branch, has been charged with enforcing COVID compliance measures at ATC permitted locations as part of the overall state emergency response. By law, permit holders are required to follow ATC rules in order to comply with the terms they accepted when the initial application was made. It may be your constitutional right to disagree and express disagreement, but a citizen cannot decide what laws they will follow and which ones they will not.
In most cases, business owners are working very hard under extraordinary circumstances to do the right thing. As a result, our agency has only pursued suspension and fines in the most egregious of circumstances. Recently however, a small group of business owners have taken a position which directly challenges the authority of the agency. These permit holders have chosen to ignore rules and suspension orders issued by the agency. In lieu of arrest, which is authorized by statute, I have made the decision to issue revocation orders in these cases. If upheld after hearing, an offending business will have its permit revoked, will not have the ability to purchase alcohol from wholesalers (as required by law), and will be subject to local authority discretion as to whether they will be arrested and prosecuted for selling alcohol without a permit. These businesses should take note that a revoked permit will not be reissued. “
Ernest P. Legier, Jr.
Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation announce it awarded more than $240,000.00 to eleven nonprofit organizations. The grants will support projects and initiatives aligned with the Foundation’s mission to create opportunities to inspire, mentor and enable youth to reach their full potential through culinary, nutrition and arts education. Emergency funds were also awarded to support hospitality industry workers who are experiencing financial struggles due to COVID-19.
“The need to support the youth in our community has always been a priority of the Foundation. This year, more young people than ever experienced unprecedented hardships,” said Emeril Lagasse Foundation president Brian Kish. “Our grant recipients this December have stepped up to meet increased and evolving needs, even as they faced reduced revenue. We are proud to invest in these organizations, and we are grateful for the tremendous support of our board, generous donors and community partners that make this all possible.”
The Foundation awarded grants to the following beneficiaries:
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation is proud to continue serving youth in need and helping them reach their full potential. Learn more about causes making a difference here.
The City of New Orleans today announced that bars, breweries and adult live entertainment venues in Orleans Parish must close indoor facilities effective at 11 p.m. this evening, as required by the State of Louisiana emergency order. In addition, the State order forbids alcohol sales at indoor sporting events.
The Louisiana Department of Health has reported the weekly COVID-19 positive case rate to be 5.5% for Orleans Parish, marking the second consecutive week test positivity has been above 5%. Per the State’s guidelines, bars, breweries and indoor sporting events must cease indoor alcohol service and sales in parishes whose positive case rate exceeds 5% two weeks in a row. That rule will go into effect at 11 p.m., when bars are required to close for nightly hours.
Orleans Parish bars and breweries will be allowed to continue alcohol sales through drive thru, takeout, and curbside pickup. Outdoor seating will also be allowed for up to 50 individuals with tables socially distanced. Bars and breweries will continue to be required to close nightly at 11 p.m.
The City of New Orleans has updated its Modified Phase Two guidelines to reflect the necessary State changes triggered by the increasing positive case rate.
Residents are encouraged to exercise extreme caution while celebrating the New Year as COVID-19 continues to spread at a dangerous rate in New Orleans.
As you know, Congress passed the end of year Omnibus bill that addresses a series of appropriation issues and the COVID-19 Relief provisions.
A summary of the bill’s UC related provisions may be found here.
Unemployed individuals will get an additional $300/week along with their regular state benefits from Dec. 26, 2020 to March 14, 2021.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for self-employed and gig workers is extended to March 14 (after which no new applicants will be permitted), but PUA recipients as of March 14 will be allowed to stay on three additional weeks before their benefits end (April 5).
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) that provides additional weeks of federal benefits when state UC benefits run out is also extended to March 14 (after which no new applications will be taken), and like PUA recipients, PEUC recipients as of March 14 can receive three additional weeks before their benefits end (April).
The bill extends the interest-free status for loans to insolvent state UC trust funds through March 14.
Finally, the bill strengthens program integrity and includes a requirement for applicants to (1) provide documentation of employment (not just self-certification as is currently the case) and (2) verify their identities. States now must have a place for employers to report when someone turns down a job and must notify claimants of the requirement to accept suitable work, unless there is good cause for their refusal.
Legislation regarding most of the above issues is anticipated some time in February before their March expiration.
The National Restaurant Association applauds the Department of Labor (DOL) final rule revising tipping regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Association and its affiliate the Restaurant Legal Center advocated for many of the changes enacted in the final rule which makes tipping regulations more practical and workable for the restaurant industry and – more importantly – brings them into greater alignment with the FLSA.
The final rule has two major parts that impact the industry:
Today, Congress unveiled a $900 billion relief bill to provide short-term economic relief to the country in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The plan includes several items that will benefit restaurants, most importantly, a second round of access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with unique provisions aimed to assist the restaurant industry, which continues to endure unparalleled job and revenue losses.
“Since early March, when Louisiana restaurants were shut down by the pandemic, the Louisiana Restaurant Association partnered with the National Restaurant Association to press Congress and the Trump administration for both long-term and short-term economic support,” said Stan Harris, LRA President and CEO. “This bill will provide Louisiana restaurants with much needed capital, creating more time for us to work with Congress to develop additional programs to save our beloved community restaurants.”
The plan announced today targets restaurant relief with provisions including:
Other provisions in the bill that will benefit restaurants include the deductibility of business expenses paid with PPP loans, enhancement of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), extension of the augmented Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), and increased tax deduction for business meals.
“The action taken by Congress today will keep tens of thousands of restaurants from closing in the coming months,” said Tom Bené, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “A second round of PPP, combined with unique enhancements for the restaurant sector, will provide critical access to capital. Restaurant operators and their employees are dedicated to serving their communities, and today’s bipartisan agreement will give them the opportunity to do that through the holidays. However, the long-term economic challenges facing independent, franchise, and chain restaurants will not end with the new year, and we will continue to press federal and state leaders for the support that will put us on the road to recovery.”
Click here to read the provisions in the new bill. Find the full National Restaurant Association Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, which includes additional supports to put the restaurant industry on the road to recovery, here.