Angela and Michael Miller participate in Sunday services at Lighthouse Community Church in Berwick. Under Phase 3 of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proclamation issued Friday, churches can have a capacity of 75% with social distancing.
The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute
No big changes here under Phase Three
Not much has changed in St. Mary Parish with a move to Phase Three in the state’s COVID-19 reo-pening plan.
Local restaurants are continuing to operate and local churches hold services, both with an increase in capacity to 75%.
Meanwhile, local bars have been given guidelines for reopening, but under the guidelines, they currently can’t open because St. Mary Parish doesn’t meet the threshold allowed in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ newest mandate issued Friday.
Bars can reopen for onsite drinking if their parish has a two-week average positive rate for COVID-19 is 5% or less. If they do meet those criteria, their capacity is limited to 25% with a cap of 50 customers indoors.
St. Mary Parish doesn’t meet the COVID-19 positivity rate as it currently is between 10% and 12%, Parish President David Hanagriff said.
However, Hanagriff doesn’t agree with how that percentage in each parish is calculated, either.
“Whenever you put the nursing home cases and cases from the local jails and prisons in there, those individuals are not going to be going to bars,” he said. “Those individuals are not in the public. Therefore, I believe those individuals should not be counted in our percentage when you are basing it upon whether or not you’re going to open a busi-ness.”
Hanagriff said he will follow the governor’s orders, but he said that he is trying to find out if they can recalculate their percentage excluding those incarcerated or in nursing homes. If he can reach that number and is allowed to, he said he has no problem allowing bars to reopen immediately.
Nathan Bourque, owner of Timmy T’s in Morgan City, said local bar owners were excited Thursday when they learned the governor was moving the state to Phase Three, although stipulations weren’t announced until Friday.
“We thought ‘this is it. We finally can get some livelihood back.’ You got football season starting,” he said.
While a temporary restaurant license may be doable for some bars, Bourque said not all bars can do that, and it’s not worth opening his bar for video poker if they can’t serve their customers alcohol and have to pay someone to be there.
Bourque said numerous bars in town, not including his, would not be able to make it much longer under the current restrictions.
He said that local bar owners met with Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi Friday to express their frustration. He thanked Grizzaffi, Hanagriff and Morgan City Police Chief James Blair for their support through these times.
In the restaurant in-dustry, Carlos Izaguirre, owner of The Galley in Morgan City, said the community has helped his business.
“We’ve been blessed with our regulars and the word of mouth, people sending the tourists to come see the smaller restaurants in town that the locals go to,” he said.
However, he is con-cerned about local bars and lounges, too.
“There’s a small lounge next to our restaurant, and we kind of cater to each other and we worry about them not being able to open or the parish not meeting the (5%) what they were asking for,” Izaguirre said.
While a move to Phase Three is a welcome sight, Izaguirre said Edwards should do more to bring people back to incentivizing people to come back to work instead of offering enhanced unemployment benefits.
“You would think there would be a lot of people looking for jobs, but they aren’t,” he said.
On Sunday morning, worshippers gathered at Lighthouse Community Church in Berwick for services.
Following the service, the Rev. Mo Seneca said that not much has changed for them as they have added some additional fellowship time in the evenings on Sundays.
Many of the changes occurred in Phase Two as they resumed in-person worship before beginning their children’s church shortly after and then later added Wednesday night services for adult and youth.
“We’re just kind of slowly adding things on. … We kind of prioritized what we started back,” Seneca said. “We wanted to keep people in as much as possible.”
Seneca said he actually has realized how useful the online presence is by streaming services.
“Even though we’ve started back regular gathering we still have several hundred folks that watch online, which I think is cool,” he said.
Seneca said they will continue streaming services after all re-strictions are lifted.
Another positive, he said, has been just the growth of faith this year.
“The hallmark of Christianity is we walk by faith, and 2020 has been a faith walk,” Seneca said. “I’m sure like everybody, the best thing about 2020 is it’s almost over.”