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Four Louisiana Bars Shut Down For Coronavirus Restriction Violations

Betsy Shepherd / WWNO
Businesses are closed along Bourbon Street and throughout New Orleans in response to the spread of coronavirus. March 19, 2020.

Four Louisiana businesses have had their bar permits suspended for violating coronavirus restrictions, according to a statement from the Office of the State Fire Marshal earlier this week.

The suspended bars are located across south Louisiana: the Frosty Factory in Lake Charles, Pelican Pub in Gonzales, the Sand Dollar Tiki Bar in Grand Isle, and Wo-de’s Chill Spot in Harvey. All four will have hearings on August 5 and 6, and “consequences could result in a suspension period of up to 30 days.”

So far, those are the only businesses that the State Fire Marshal has taken “COVID-related action” against, according to spokesperson Ashley Rodrigue.

The news comes after several Willie’s Chicken Shack locations in the French Quarter of New Orleans were shut down on Sunday due to violations of stricter city regulations. Statewide, bars are not allowed to serve alcohol on their premises, but are allowed to-go drinks. In New Orleans, tighter restrictions went into effect Saturday morning banning alcohol to-go.

“Multiple inspections” by state Fire Marshal deputies, sanitarians from the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH)and ATC agents found both the Frosty Factory in Lake Charles and the Pelican Pub in Gonzales were “open to and serving members of the public inside the bar” this weekend.

Public complaints led to the permit suspensions of both Wo-de’s in Harvey and the Sand Dollar in Grand Isle. Those businesses were found to be serving alcohol to “large” and “non-socially distanced” crowds in or outside of their establishments, according to the State Fire Marshal’s release.

The violations by Willie’s Chicken Shack locations in New Orleans were identified by New Orleans code enforcement officials, city spokesman Beau Tidwell said at a Tuesday morning press conference, at which he stressed the importance of complying with regulations meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“The reason any of this is happening, the goal for all of it, is to get kids back in school,” he said. “To do that safely we need to bring the numbers down. For those numbers to come down, we need people to obey the guidelines that have been laid out.”

Tidwell said the city received 142 complaints from residents related to “business non-compliance,” and 96 reports of large gatherings.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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