Edwards Orders State Mask Mandate, Closes Bars to On-Premises Consumption, and Makes Phase 2 Changes

By the Alcoholic Beverage Licensing and Related Enforcement Issues Practice Group

Click here for the official Governor’s office press release

In response to the highest number of new cases reported in one day (July 10, 2020), and hospitalizations quadrupling over the past two weeks, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state will remain in Phase Two until at least July 24, and the following changes to his current order have become effective today, Monday July 13, 2020.

  • Masks are mandated statewide for anyone ages 8 and older unless a major health condition makes it difficult, and masks are strongly recommended for ages 2-7. This mandate is required both indoors and outdoors when a person cannot be physically distant from others. The only exception made is for three parishes which currently do not have a high incidence rate of COVID (Grant, Red River, and West Feliciana parishes). While these three parishes can choose to opt out, the mandate is still strongly recommended.
  • Bars with or without food permits will be closed to on-premises consumption but may engage in curbside pickup. Restaurants with bars inside of them will be allowed to seat patrons at the bar where they may serve them food and alcohol, just as they could at a table, but bars in restaurants cannot function as a bars and may only function as an extension of the seating area for the primary consumption of food.
  • Indoor gatherings are now limited to 50 people total. This does not change the maximum occupancy numbers and percentages established in Phase Two for essential and nonessential businesses. This does, however, include social gatherings and businesses which may offer indoor venues for gatherings of 50 or more people. Outdoor gatherings are required to strictly enforce social distancing.

Notably, New Orleans announced more limiting restrictions earlier this week that are presumably still in effect for bars within restaurants (seating at bars in prohibited) and for indoor gatherings (limited to 25 people).

In addition to Governor Edwards’ announcements today, state health officials have reportedly halted restaurant and bar owners’ applications to book live indoor entertainment across Louisiana. The Open Safely guidelines from the State Fire Marshal for restaurants and bars were quietly amended on June 26, 2020, to expressly prohibit live indoor entertainment as part of Phase Two. The guidelines now make clear that live indoor entertainment will only be allowed, upon approval, during Phase Three.

While the governor’s office continues to offer mitigation assistance rather than permit revocation or other more harsh consequences for first time offenders, it has instructed the State Fire Marshal to start issuing citations to repeat offenders. Various local jurisdictions have also begun to issue warnings that businesses who do not comply with the mask mandate may be shut down or face revocation of their local alcohol permits.

Updated guidelines from various state agencies are expected to be published on Monday. Taylor Porter will continue to monitor the State Fire Marshal Open Safely guidelines, Department of Health statements, and notifications by the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

The Taylor Porter Alcoholic Beverage Licensing and Related Enforcement Issues Practice Group continues to monitor the legal developments pertaining to COVID-19. Please let us know how we can help you navigate licensing and compliance issues during this unprecedented time.