Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on businesses of all stripes, none more than the hospitality industry. In that struggling sector, there is one category seemingly without hope – the New Orleans neighborhood bar. These watering holes, where for generations people have gathered to celebrate and mourn, are on the brink of extinction. Since the initial shutdown in March, most Orleans Parish bars were only allowed to operate for a brief and very confusing time between June 13th and midnight on July 12th.
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Trying to comply with the ever-changing regulations, some have pivoted to conditional restaurant licenses, but many others don’t have the kitchen space or ability to serve food. These bar owners are left in a cruel sort of limbo. While all across the state to-go drinks are being allowed and even encouraged by our state government, here – in the home of the go cup – to-go drinks are banned.
This week, we tackle this topic in the hopes that listeners everywhere will understand the true plight of New Orleans’ neighborhood bars, a place essential to the very fabric of this city’s culture.
We begin with retired New Orleans' firefighter, Kevin Lee, and learn why every day, he sits alone inside of his Irish Channel bar, Pete's Out in the Cold. Then, Kelder Summers Jones of Whiskey and Sticks shares the story of her Bayou Road bar and the hoops she and her husband have had to jump through to comply with rapidly changing regulations.
Polly Watts of the Avenue Pub, one of the leading voices in this fight, reveals why recent calls with city hall have left many bar owners despondent and why even she is questioning her next move. Finally, T. Cole Newton of the Domino and Twelve Mile Limit joins us. He explains to us why the shutdown is only the most recent existential threat to neighborhood bars.
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