Louisiana Moves Into COVID-19 Phase 3; Restrictions Loosened on Hospitality Industry

Richard Easterling, Special Counsel | richard.easterling@taylorporter.com
Katie Goodson, Special Counsel | katie.goodson@taylorporter.com
Erin Sayes Kenny, Partner | erin.kenny@taylorporter.com
Mike Walsh, Partner | michael.walsh@taylorporter.com
 

This article is current as of March 4, 2021, and may be subject to change
Click here to read official Governor’s Office press release

Phase Three of Resilient Louisiana

On March 2, 2021, Governor Edwards announced that Louisiana would move forward to Phase Three, effective March 3, 2021.[1]  The new Phase Three Order will be in effect until March 31, 2021.[2] The following is a summary of the Order and corresponding Open Safely Guidelines from the State Fire Marshal (SFM).[3]

Masks are required to be worn inside a commercial establishment or any other building or space open to the public, whether indoor or outdoor.  This mandate applies statewide.

Essential Businesses under Version 4.0 of the federal CISA guidance that were allowed to operate under the previous Phase Two Order may remain in full operation.

The following Nonessential Businesses shall remain closed to the public:

  • Places of public amusement, including but not limited to, carnivals, fairs and festivals, amusement parks, theme parks, locations with amusement rides, water parks, splash pads, trampoline parks, children’s play centers, indoor playgrounds, concert and music halls, and other similar businesses.
     
  • Any of these businesses, however, may submit a reopening plan with specific proposals for occupancy and sanitization to the State Fire Marshal (SFM), who, upon consultation with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), may approve the plan and allow reopening, subject to maximum 50 percent occupancy.

While closed to the public, these businesses shall not be prohibited from conducting necessary activities such as payroll, cleaning services, maintenance, or upkeep, as necessary.

The following Nonessential Businesses may be opened to the public, at limited capacity and subject to certain restrictions.[4]

Bars, Microbreweries and Micro-distilleries

All bars, microbreweries and micro-distilleries are allowed to open for indoor, on-premises sales and consumption at 25 percent capacity, not to exceed 250 seated patrons. Takeout through drive-thru or curbside delivery, including alcoholic beverages, is also permissible.


Bars, microbreweries and micro-distilleries may operate at 50 percent capacity, not to exceed 250 seated patrons, if: (1) they are located in a parish that has a percent positivity of 5 percent or less for two consecutive weeks, and (2) the parish has affirmatively opted-in to allow for on-premise consumption.[5] 

All bars, microbreweries and micro-distilleries that open for on-premise consumption must operate within the following additional restrictions:

  • Hours of operation must be between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
     
  • Patrons must be 21 years of age or older to enter the premise.
     
  • Patrons must be seated at tables at all times, and seating must be socially distanced. No standing room capacity is permitted, and walk-up service at the bar is prohibited.
     
  • Bar games are allowed, subject to certain conditions.[6]
     
  • Dancing in open congregate areas, such as dance floors, whether indoors or outdoors, is not authorized.

 Restaurants, Cafes and Coffee Shops

All restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops are allowed to provide dine-in service at 75 percent capacity. Takeout through drive-thru or curbside delivery is also still permissible.[7] Restaurants must continue to operate within the following restrictions:

  • Waiting areas must be closed.
     
  • Buffets and other common food stations must be closed for self-service. A restaurant employee, per every 25 patrons, may serve dine-in patrons from the buffet, but shall be assigned no more than 5 food items.
     
  • Bar areas and bar counters at restaurants can be used for seating and serving purposes only and shall not allow for social gatherings. Service at a bar area or counter may include food or drink.
     
  • Alcohol sales are not permitted after 11:00 p.m.

Event Centers and Reception Halls

Event centers and reception halls may operate at 50 percent capacity, or 250 people, whichever is less. This applies to indoor events and fixed seating. Outdoor events are likewise subject to 50 percent capacity limitation.

  • Only events controlled by invitation, ticket sales, or reservations are included in Phase Three.
     
  • Events having a central speaker or with a central stage must have assigned seating.
     
  • Dancing in open congregate areas, such as dance floors, whether indoors or outdoors, is not authorized.
     
  • Food service is subject to the Restaurants, Cafes and Coffee Shops guidelines.
     
  • The service and sales of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption may only occur between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Indoor Live Entertainment/Music[8]

Indoor live entertainment, including but not limited to singing and windblown instruments, is allowed, subject to certain conditions.[9] Notably:

  • This limitation does not apply to disc jockeys or music played via speaker system.
     
  • Live music events are permitted only by performers who are contracted or hired by the business. Singing or performances by patrons (i.e., karaoke or open mic) are not permitted.
     
  • Signage must be posted indicating that singing and instrumental music produced by wind instruments are thought to be higher risk activities for COVID-19 spread. 

Regardless of the capacity allowed under the Phase Three Order for a designated business, when hosting live indoor music, a business is limited to 50 percent capacity, not to exceed 250 people, as outlined below:

  • One person per every 2 seats provided; or
     
  • 50 percent of the posted capacity by the SFM, not to exceed 250 people
     
  • Exception: Venues with fixed seating that guarantee a minimum of 6 feet of spacing among individuals/household groups may host live indoor music at their designated Phase Three capacity.
     
  • Group seating is limited to 10 people and should include members of the same household. 

Athletic Events

No stadium, sports complex, or arena hosting any athletic event shall exceed 50 percent capacity.

Alcohol sales are permitted at athletic events, under the following conditions:

  • All patrons purchasing an alcoholic beverage must return to their ticketed seats for consumption and shall not be allowed to stand or congregate in open areas to consume alcohol. Crowd managers and signage must be utilized to instruct patrons accordingly.
     
  • Alcohol shall not be sold to a patron who is not wearing a face covering.
     
  • No alcohol sales shall occur after 11:00 p.m. 

Additional resources:

  • For a guide of businesses that can be open at any given time, visit https://gov.louisiana.gov/can-this-business-open/.
     
  • Members of the public can continue to obtain information from the Governor’s office by visiting https://coronavirus.la.gov and by texting LACOVID to 67283.
     
  • Members of the public can continue to obtain information from the Department of Health by visiting ldh.la.gov/coronavirus.
     
  • Individuals with general questions about COVID-19 in Louisiana can call 211.

The Taylor Porter Alcoholic Beverage Licensing and Related Enforcement Issues Practice Group continues to monitor the legal developments pertaining to COVID-19.

FOOTNOTES

  • [1] Shortly after the Governor’s announcement, the City of New Orleans released a statement clarifying that Orleans Parish would remain under the modified Phase Two restrictions imposed as of February 26, 2021. The modified Phase Two restrictions for New Orleans businesses can be found here.
  • [2] The Phase Three Order can be read here.
  • [3] The State Fire Marshal, in conjunction with the Office of the Governor and Louisiana Department of Health, has published Phasing Plans with requirements and restrictions for certain Nonessential Businesses. Business owners can register at www.OpenSafely.la.gov to receive this guidance. Registering for the Open Safely site is not required in order to reopen, but it is encouraged. While the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) has routinely published guidance since the Governor’s first Stay At Home Order, the ATC has not released any guidelines in conjunction with the Phase Three Order, as of the date of this article.
  • [4] This article highlights the applicable restrictions for businesses in the retail and hospitality industry. For an exhaustive list of business categories that may be opened under the Phase Three Order, and a comprehensive summary of every restriction and guideline applicable each business category, see the links to the full Phase Three Order and the SFM Open Safely Guidelines, throughout this article, as well as the Additional Resources.
  • [5] Should any parish that opts-in then subsequently exceed 5 percent positivity for two consecutive weeks, bars in that parish shall be restricted to 25 percent capacity for on-premise consumption, unless and until the percent positivity decreases to 5 percent or less for two consecutive weeks. LDH publishes weekly positivity rates for each parish here.
  • [6] See Bar, Nightclubs and Microbreweries Open Safely Guidelines for additional information regarding limitations for bar games.
  • [7] The Phase Three Order does not specify that drive-thru or curbside delivery by restaurants may include alcoholic beverages, but this omission appears to be inadvertent. All previous orders have included alcoholic beverages in this provision, and the ATC has likewise authorized alcoholic beverages with curbside and delivery orders in its previously published guidance. In the absence of an express prohibition, we conclude that the sale of alcoholic beverages by restaurants with takeout orders is still permissible under the Phase Three Order.
  • [8] This guidance is applicable to any business where indoor live entertainment or music may be offered, including but not limited to restaurants, bars, event centers and reception halls, and theaters.
  • [9] See Open Safely Guidelines for additional information regarding limitations for indoor live entertainment.

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