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New Orleans re-imposes restrictions on its celebrated restaurant industry

Indoor dining has been capped at 25% of capacity, and reservations systems and records are required.
Photograph: Shutterstock

New Orleans has re-lowered the cap on indoor restaurant dining to 25% of an establishment’s seating capacity in a bid to slow the accelerated spread of COVID-19.

The city’s celebrated restaurant industry had been permitted prior to this week to use up to 50% of indoor seating. Outdoor dining, takeout and delivery are still permitted as before.

Full-service restaurants are also required under the reinstatement of safety measures to use a reservation system that records and keeps contact information for dining-room customers for up to 21 days. They are also obliged to seat no more than six people at a table, all from the same household, and to keep the seated parties at least six feet apart.

Bar seating is prohibited, and customers must wear a face-covering except while actively eating or drinking. Alcohol sales are not prohibited after 11 p.m. and must be accompanied by the sale of food.

In an apparent nod to the city’s heritage as a cradle of American jazz, restaurants with a permit for live entertainment can still feature entertainers provided they don’t sing or use a wind-blown instrument such a saxophone. Karaoke is prohibited. The measure is intended to prevent performers from exhaling airborne coronavirus.

The moves by the Big Easy are the latest efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus by limiting indoor restaurant dining. Interior dining is still prohibited in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, among other major metropolitan areas.

Other jurisdictions have eased restrictions that were imposed before the year-end holidays to flatten an expected surge in new COVID cases. Minnesota, for instance, gave restaurants a go-ahead on Wednesday to re-open their dining rooms at 50% of seating capacities. Indoor dining had been banned for six weeks.

Similarly, Colorado permitted restaurants to reopen 25% of their indoor seating areas as of Monday.

The shifts come as the nation is gripped by a still-rising wave of new infections, which health authorities such as Dr. Anthony Fauci have attributed to lax social distancing during the holidays. U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 4,000 on Thursday, the first time casualties have pushed past that barrier.

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