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Despite Bourbon Street Partying, The City's Message Is The Same: Mardi Gras Tourists Are Welcome

Ashley Dean
Bourbon Street on a quiet morning, March 28, 2020.

By now there are probably few who haven’t seen the video of a large crowd of people partying on Bourbon Street over the weekend. People in the crowd, some of whom were not wearing face coverings, were dancing and singing along to a popular song by Baton Rouge rapper Boosie.

The video’s social media ubiquity and the outcry from New Orleanians has forced the city to respond — but not to change its stance on Mardi Gras tourists during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The mass gatherings that we saw in the video from Bourbon Street last weekend ... it’s dangerous, it risks lives, and it risks the progress that we’ve made,” New Orleans Communications Director Beau Tidwell said in a press conference Tuesday.

It is the second weekend in a row when large groups of people, many unmasked, have been recorded and reported.. On Jan. 24, the Monkey Hill Bar in Uptown came under fire for a private party where attendance grew far beyond the 25 percent occupancy the bar was allowed.

It’s all building anxiety as what’s left of Carnival season ramps up and the Mardi Gras holiday draws closer.

The message from the city has been that visitors are welcome to come to New Orleans as long as they adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines. That message has not changed.

In mid-January, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said, "The city of New Orleans will always be welcoming. 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."

Today, Tidwell had a similar message: “We’re a welcoming city. We’re always going to be a welcoming city, and we do know that people are coming. What we’re trying to get out there for any visitors that are looking to come is … it is different this year.”

Tidwell stressed the city’s measure to restrict indoor bar service until Mardi Gras is over. But outdoor service with a 50 person cap and to-go drinks are still allowed — and fueling the crowds like the one on Bourbon Street last weekend.

Tidwell said that the public safety team, which includes NOPD Superintendent Sean Ferguson, is still finalizing plans for how to regulate gatherings in the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday and in the days prior. He said the best approach is not always punitive, adding that arrests don’t make us safe, “we get safer by complying with the guidelines.”

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