Mayor Shuts Down Bars After a List of Seemingly Conflicting Messages Throughout COVID Period

The Red Eye Grill
Courtesy of Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s Facebook profile

After pictures began circulating on social media over the last few days of unmasked crowds and close activity at The Red Eye Grill, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has decided she has had enough. In a Facebook post, the Mayor said, “The City of New Orleans overnight shut down several bars across the city for failure to comply with restrictions implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 700 residents.” She added that the bars closed included Cadi Corner, TJ Quills, The District, and as expected, The Red Eye Grill. 

In Cantrell’s post, she also quoted Deputy Chief Administrative Office Peter Bowen of the Office of Business and Services who said “Yesterday, we spoke directly to those bars who continue to break every guideline put in place by this Administration to protect our residents. We said we knew who you were, what you were doing, and how you were trying to hide what you were doing, and WHAT we were going to do if you continued. This is what we mean, and we’re not done yet.” Bowen’s department oversees the Department of Code Enforcement and Safety and Permits, permits required by bars and restaurants to operate in the city.  

This all takes place after various words and warnings, some of which have conflicted, or one could say “evolved,” from the Mayor over time. 

The night before last, the Mayor issued a definite warning when she declared in a post that, “Today, we announced the regulations and enforcement for Mardi Gras weekend and Mardi Gras day. What we saw on Bourbon St. last weekend cannot be allowed; it’s unacceptable.” Likely, she was talking about photos from The Red Eye Grill and not the numerous days of traffic on Bourbon Street itself. Cantrell added, “To those that are upset about these restrictions, know that when it comes to the health of our people, I’d rather be accused of doing too much than not enough.” 

In this instance, several rules came about dating from February 12th, to Mardi Gras Day on February 16th, that in New Orleans there will be no selling to-go drinks, and that bars city-wide will be closed. 

COVID bar rules


But this all follows a time of complicated “re-messaging,” in which Cantrell said three months ago that, “The city of New Orleans will always be welcoming,” and adding, “What we ask is you do the right thing: Put that mask on, avoid large gatherings, stay in your pod and be respectful of yourselves and the people who live here.”

Of course, all of that was before The Red Eye Grill photos circulated on social media. Owner Albert Bowes says that things got out of hand, while also explaining the circumstances the city’s  service industry is in, pointing out that, “Everybody is doing what they have to do to survive.” He added, “If it comes down to you losing your business or breaking the rules a little bit, what do you think they’re going to do?” 

All of this comes three months after the Mayor said of Mardi Gras, “It is a religious holiday and in no way will it be cancelled in our city, but it will be something different.”  This statement was issued in November of last year. 

So as far as drinking, club life, and parades go, Mardi Gras as we know it in New Orleans, no matter what the Mayor says, is not happening this year. For all intents and purposes, as far as the financial lives of those in the service industry is concerned, New Orleans is closed.

For those who rented an Airbnb or a hotel and have already made plans, we can hope that they enjoy seeing house floats and had no other plans in mind. 

While the Mayor’s messaging may seem contradictory at times, it should be kept in mind, that New Orleans, like the rest of the world, is seeing a plague such as hasn’t been experienced in 100 years. 

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