Around 11 a.m. today, local bartenders, bar owners and patrons gathered at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse Square to protest the restrictions that have recently been placed on Louisiana bars due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Phase 2 of reopening, which Gov. John Bel Edwards officially extended for 28 more days on June 25, bars without Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) food permits were allowed to open with social distancing requirements and patrons seated at 25 percent occupancy. Bars with LDH food permits were previously allowed to open under Phase 1, but under Phase 2, they were allowed a 50 percent occupancy limit.
However, on Saturday, July 11, Edwards announced that effective today, July 13, all bars — including those with LDH food permits — have to close on-premises consumption, limiting them to curbside takeout or delivery service only.
“Because it’s discrimination,” said Jasa Hubbell, event organizer, on why she decided to protest. “You’re closing down just bars.”
“Bartenders, bar owners, small business owners — we all have lives, families, kids, and we support ourselves. A lot of us don’t get any government assistance,” added Hubbell, who said she has been bartending since she was 18 years old.
Hubbell went on to note that a lot of bars got food permits since the pandemic forced closures, but now they still can’t operate.
Melanie Clouse, manager at Lenny’s Nightclub, said the restrictions are making it difficult for employees in the industry. “This is most of their livelihoods; this is their only job,” she said. “We depend on our tips and our salary to pay our bills, just like anyone else.”
It was said that during the pandemic landlords wouldn’t kick out tenants who couldn’t pay the rent, but it’s still happening, Clouse said.
She continued: “So what’s going to happen: we’re gonna have more homeless people because they can’t work to afford to pay their bills and their rent…They’re being denied any government assistance that there is to get. And they’re not making any income.”
“A lot of us couldn’t get stimulus because we all work on tips, on cash…We just had to stick it out,” Hubbell said. “A lot of us just opened our doors up and have been trying to catch up on our bills. And before we even get our head above the water, they’re pushing us down again.”
Sabreanna Jefferson, a patron, said she joined the protest to support local bartenders who she’s come to know since moving to the area last year. Jefferson also brought her two sons, ages 4 and 6, with her as well, “because everybody needs to view it from a different perspective,” as it affects many different people — including the children of those in the bar industry.
“Even though you might have something lined up with your savings…at least come down and show support — even though you’re okay,” Jefferson added.
What came as a shock during the governor’s announcement on Saturday was that it was just bars that were closing again, Hubbell said.
“We love our community. We all get to interact with people; we know everybody. It’s always a friendly face,” she said. “Why close down just bars?”