NEW ORLEANS (AP) — All-night alcohol sales are coming back and a ban on parades is being lifted in New Orleans as coronavirus vaccine rates improve and hospitalizations from COVID-19 stay low, the city announced Wednesday.
Current rules require that alcoholic beverage sales end at 1 a.m. That changes under rules that take effect Friday, the city said in a news release.
The latest changes mean more money-making opportunities for the tourist-dependent city that saw hotels, restaurants and bars hit hard during the pandemic.
The city announced that it will begin taking permit applications for large parades and smaller “second line” processions under the new rules. Parades are a vital part of many New Orleans celebrations, most notably during Mardi Gras season.
Second lines, smaller processions so named because watchers often join the procession to form a second line behind the band, take place year-round — a familiar scene after weddings, funerals or other events.
The change won't be immediate. Parade permits must be applied for 90 days in advance; second line permits, 15 days, according to the city's news release.
But the announcement heralds hope for a return of Mardi Gras traditions next year. The annual pre-Lenten bash was sedate in New Orleans this year because of the pandemic. The French Quarter was virtually shut down and the lavish parades that mark the season were forbidden.
The city is also allowing gyms to operate at full capacity and removing 6-foot (2-meter) table spacing requirements at restaurants. There remain some restrictions on the number of people allowed at large gatherings. But exceptions are to be made for events where masks are required or where participants provide proof of vaccinations.