Some venues remain shut amid pandemic, even with loosened restrictions & higher gathering sizes in NOLA

Starting this weekend, bars and restaurants here in New Orleans were allowed to stay open until 1 a.m., extending their last call by two hours.

As many vendors were looking forward to the extra revenue, others were choosing to remain closed for safety reasons.

Some venues were finally opening up again, including Generations Hall, also known as the Metropolitan. Saturday night was the first time in 13 months that the venue used its space for an event.

“Tonight is a wedding reception. It has been on the books for a while,” said George Demmas, the owner of Generations Hall.

Demmas said the 35,000-square-foot event hall could have opened earlier. But at the time, the risks outweighed the gains. Now with higher gathering sizes and later hours, Demmas said his club might finally start to see a profit.

In May, the hall will start booking public events.

“Now that the numbers have gone up to 150. For those types of events, we can open,” Demmas said. “It makes it more difficult. We have got to restrict people and our numbers and adhere to the guidelines but it helps out a little bit.”

For other nightclubs still closed to the public, only time will help. Jesse Paige, the owner of the Blue Nile along Frenchmen Street, said his club has been closed since March 15, 2020.

“I think it is a positive move by the city to allow bars to stay open until 1 a.m. For us, what still keeps us in a stranglehold are the restrictions. Distancing of the musicians. The audience. For what we do, it is a congregation of people coming together,” Paige said.

Jesse and many other venue owners are banking on future money from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant to help keep their businesses afloat.

Businesses that apply for the grant could get back 45% of the revenue they lost during a portion of the pandemic. On Thursday, venue owners said the website taking applications for the grants crashed.

“We spent months preparing to apply for this,” Paige said. “When the portal opened on the SBA website, it crashed. It was about 15,000 businesses they estimated and the site was not ready for that amount of people.”

Next week, we are told the portal for the site should be back up for businesses to apply.

Meanwhile, with the progress made by the state so far, hope is there for all.

“With the help of our Mayor opening up and the governor loosening restrictions and now with our numbers going up with capacity and people getting vaccinated, I think the energy in the city will come back big time,” Demmas said.

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