New Orleans officials close 7 bars over COVID-19 violations ahead of Mardi Gras

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Getting bars to follow COVID-19 guidelines ahead of Mardi Gras is turning into the big not-so-easy in New Orleans.

City officials said they had already shut down seven bars for breaking rules like being over capacity, serving drinks to customers past 11 p.m. and mask requirements, FOX8 in New Orleans reported this week.

At one bar, a security guard even drew a firearm on one of the officers enforcing the health rules, according to the report.

ALL NEW ORLEANS BARS ORDERED TO CLOSE FOR MARDI GRAS

Peter Bowen, director of New Orleans’ Office of Business & External Services, told reporters that the city still aims for voluntary compliance from bars and restaurants.

"We don’t want to shut anyone’s business down," he said this week. "We want to reopen our businesses safely."

City officials had investigated more than 300 complaints related to COVID-19 guidelines, FOX8 reported.

Bars shuttered by the city over enforcement issues will have to submit plans to reopen safely, according to the report. They also face possible further consequences from the state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board.

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The closings came ahead of a city-wide order to shut down bars from Friday, Feb. 12 through Mardi Gras on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the shutdown last week, saying that areas popular for celebrations like Bourbon Street would be closed and no liquor sales would be allowed anywhere in the French Quarter.

Because pandemic dangers from large and widespread crowds have canceled Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans this year, thousands of people are decorating their homes as floats. (AP Photo/Janet McConnaughey)

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"We’re worried about the entire city and that’s why we’re putting these guidelines in place," Cantrell said Friday.

Many New Orleans residents had already been preparing to celebrate a socially distanced Mardi Gras this year. The city had announced back in November that there would be no parades because of the pandemic.

James Leggate Fox News