SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — If you’ve been waiting patiently to get that new tattoo or some relief with a gentle massage, those are two of the kinds of businesses that will be able to reopen Friday in Louisiana.
It’s part of Phase II of Gov. John Bel Edwards reopening the state’s economy.
And while the governor consulted with state health officials before giving the green light to Phase II, the reopening could be put on hold if COVID-19 cases begin to spike again.
For now, bars that don’t serve food will be able to reopen Friday but with a maximum occupancy rate of 25%.
Restaurants, retailers and casinos that had been limited to 25% will be able to double that to 50% of their capacity.
Those are just some of the changes you can expect when Louisiana’s Phase II of re-opening arrives Friday, June 5.
“Phase II means more normal. Not completely normal, but more normal,” said Liz Swaine, executive director of Shreveport’s Downtown Development Authority.
And it’s no exaggeration to say that the approximately two-month shutdown has been devastating for many of 1,000 businesses in and around downtown Shreveport, she added.
“No, it’s been devastating. I mean, there’s no way around that. When you shut businesses down for a period of time, when they can’t make money, when they can’t pay employees, it’s devastating," she explained.
"It’s devastating to us as individuals. It’s devastating to our city, it’s devastating to our economy as a whole.”
It’s been a long wait since Mariquita Smith had to close her shop March 22. Now the Shreveport woman is counting the few days left until she can reopen Image of Serenity Massage Therapy.
"I'm excited to get back to work. And a lot of people are very ready to get their massages on a regular basis."
Smith estimates that her 200 or so clients will help her make a soft landing once her business reopens.
“I’ve been doing it 13 years now. So, luckily, I’ve built a clientele that is loyal to me and massage therapy.”
Smith said her clients will notice some differences when they return to her business.
“You will have to get temperature checks when you come in at the door. And you will have to wear a mask into the office.”
Smith said she played by the rules during the shutdown by staying closed and biting the bullet financially for nine weeks.
She also said she cannot judge others who did not follow all the rules because they may be in a very tough position.
“Everyone wasn’t able to get, you know, the unemployment or the small business loans and stuff like that. So they had to make a decision of whether, you know, to take care of their family," she opined.
"You know, they had to feed their families and stuff like that. So, I understand, you know, people having to do what they felt they needed to do.”
The extended economic shutdown in Louisiana has led to some cold, hard truths.
“There are going to be businesses that will not make it," Swaine predicted. "And we’re not finished seeing the ones who aren’t going to make it. People are limping through this. They are making it through day by day.”
But she suggested that there is at least something the public can do to help all those businesses in downtown Shreveport.
"That's why I encourage people to do shopping local, to do shopping small, to help these businesses that have been around. And they really do need our help now."
Brenda Oes likes the idea of helping those businesses, with a few conditions.
“I wouldn’t dine in right now with Phase II. So that’s why I’m getting mine to go," she said.
"But other than that, I think it would work for the people that want to get out, you know. As long as they keep that 6 feet apart, they’re good to go.”