NEW ORLEANS — In the surest sign the apocalypse is upon us, the Big Easy announced Friday that bars would be closed on Mardi Gras.
The city already canceled the traditional Carnival parades for 2021. That wasn’t enough for New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell, who said the city will be under virtual martial law during one of the world’s most famous parties.
“I’d rather be accused of doing too much than too little,” Ms. Cantrell, a Democrat, said at a press conference announcing the rules.
Bars will be ordered shut citywide on the Friday before Mardi Gras, which this year falls on Feb. 16, and will not reopen until
Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17.
Restaurants will be permitted to serve drinks in what is known as “go cups,” the plastic cups by which alcohol consumption in public is legal in the French Quarter, according to the edict, but officials will prowl the city and shutter bars “on the spot” if they are serving drinks.
For that same period, residents or tourists hoping to stroll Bourbon Street will have to pass through checkpoints and fences will be erected along some avenues to prohibit gatherings of people. Stepped-up patrols from state and city police will fan out through the French Quarter and adjoining neighborhoods, the city said.
All of those areas are usually packed with people on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday and the weekends leading up to it. The thongs of revelers were blamed as a “superspreader” event for coronavirus in 2020 when Mardi Gras fell just before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in the U.S. and at a time many public officials were still urging people to join outdoor urban celebrations.
Bars and businesses throughout New Orleans and especially in the tourist-heavy French Quarter have been reeling for months under government-imposed lockdowns or restrictions on businesses put in place for a variety of COVID-19-related reasons.
But in recent weeks, as Carnival season began, a more relaxed approach seemed prevalent in New Orleans and crowds grew on Bourbon Street, leading to what The Times-Picayune Friday called “widespread outrage” that City Hall wasn’t taking a harder line toward partiers.