The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute
Brad Stansbury, right, talks with Timmy T’s owner Nathan Bourque Thursday afternoon on the patio at the bar. Bars were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity in St. Mary Parish Wednesday after the parish dropped below a 5% COVID-19 positivity rate that was required by Gov. John Bel Edwards to reopen.
Bar owners glad to have chance to open again
Timmy T’s owner Nathan Bourque has waited for Wednesday’s announcement for a long time.
For the first time in more than two months, the Morgan City bar owner is allowed to reopen his business and resume operations, albeit at a curtailed rate.
But still, it beats being closed.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Bourque said Thursday morning with patrons already in his business. “We’re going to comply and follow all the rules that they laid forth for us.”
Bourque and other St. Mary Parish bar owners were allowed to reopen Wednesday via a proclamation issued by St. Mary Parish President David Hanagriff. The move from the parish comes after St. Mary has reached the threshold of less than a 5% positivity rate for COVID-19 cases set by Gov. John Bel Edwards in the state’s move to Phase Three recently.
“From the very beginning, they did not receive the stimulus and the benefits that other people and other businesses received in St. Mary Parish, so they’ve been struggling more than anybody else,” Hanagriff said.
Hanagriff said the parish didn’t agree with the state’s positivity percentage for St. Mary Parish when the governor moved to Phase Three.
“From the very beginning, in fact, we’ve always had our numbers lower than what the state actually had for St. Mary Parish,” he said.
Hanagriff said he, along with St. Mary Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness Director David Naquin, have worked to prove that the parish’s numbers actually are lower than what the state had. Despite meeting the threshold, Hanagriff said he thinks the parish’s positivity rate is even lower, too, because nursing homes and jails, who have had COVID-19 positive tests, are included and those people are not going to bars.
He also took issue with the way the state is calculating percentages by using a parish’s number of tests taken instead of its total population.
“Right now the majority of the people that are taking the test have symptoms, so those people are actually taking the test and they have symptoms. Well guess what? Our percentage of course is going to be higher,” Hanagriff said.
While the news of Wednesday’s bar openings is good for Bourque, it doesn’t change much for local business owners Jason Romero at Pool Do’s Sports Bar and Keith Leonard at Mama G’s.
Both have transitioned to a restaurant service, and moving to a bar actually would scale back their capacity to the 25% allowed in bars.
As a lounge, Leonard said that nobody can sit at the bar and have to be waited on at a table with 25% capacity, but at a restaurant, people can sit at the bar and eat at the bar with 75% capacity allowed in the facility.
“Only because I have a piece of paper that now says I’m a restaurant and I’m doing food,” said Leonard who said he was going to do food regardless.
“That doesn’t make sense, which a lot of this stuff never makes sense,” he added.
Romero, whose business is in a multi-bar lawsuit against Edwards, said that despite the temporary change to a restaurant, things have been positive.
“I would really like to thank Morgan City for helping us and believing in us,” he said.
Leonard also has seen positives in his business as he has added a standard menu, curbside meals on Thursday evenings and is trying weekday lunch meals.
He said with the move to nonsmoking as a restaurant, his smoking customers didn’t mind, either.
“They were glad to be back in an environment that they could socialize and feel comfortable,” Leonard said.
With the move to Phase Three, Hanagriff said that now bar owners have a responsibility to follow the guidelines to not only improve their numbers but prevent another surge.
It’s something Bourque said that he looks forward to proving that bar owners that follow the rules aren’t the one’s causing a spike.
While it’s been a struggle and he obviously would have like to have opened sooner, Bourque is just happy to be reopened.
“It’s almost like we didn’t think this nightmare was going to end, and it’s just wonderful to finally have some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.