Tourism leader takes aim at Cantrell and Phase 3.2

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NEW ORLEANS — They weren’t dueling news conferences on Thursday, but they offered conflicting messages about some elements of New Orleans’ recovery from Covid-19.

About the same time Mayor LaToya Cantrell was talking about moving the city into Phase 3.2, one of the city’s top tourism leaders was talking about how the mayor needed to change course.

“We have had, as everyone knows, a little bit of a difficult relationship with the mayor,” New Orleans & Company President and CEO Stephen Perry told reporters during a 10:30 Zoom conference. Perry and his team organized the meeting to detail the group’s fall campaign to lure more locals to New Orleans’ restaurants and tourists to the city’s hotels.

At about the same time, Cantrell was speaking before her own crowd of reporters about expanding the city’s reopening plan to Phase 3.2, which allows for bars to serve seated customers but only outdoors.

Perry wants Cantrell to allow bars — and restaurants that also have bars — to allow people to allow people to sit there.

“Why you can’t seat a couple there and then skip a stool or two and seat another couple…? Perry asked.

During her comments, Cantrell also announced the return of some live music, but ruled out singing or playing wind-blown instruments indoors.

“I think arbitrarily saying, for example, that no one can sing and no one can blow a trombone or a trumpet or a brass instrument, I think that’s not thinking out of the box,” Perry said.

Cantrell stuck her guns, insisting that the reason New Orleans has recovered from being a Covid-19 hotspot is due to widespread precautions. Cantrell says that it is those precautions that are allowing bars to open to outdoor service as well as bringing higher capacities to churches, theaters and conferences.

“But it will be short lived if we don’t do what’s necessary to keep this community safe,” Cantrell told reporters. “We want to be the safest place to live as well as to visit.”

Perry and Cantrell also have different views on allowing Saints fans to watch the team play its games inside the Superdome. Cantrell says the games will continue to be open only for Saints players, coaches, and other employees as well as their families. Perry says the mayor should open the Dome to as many as 20,000 fans. He cited the Dallas Cowboys who are allowing about the same number of fans inside of AT&T Stadium for that team’s home games.

Both leaders know that many of the city’s tourism businesses are barely hanging on. But Perry’s perspective seemed more dire.

“We’re running out of money,” Perry said.

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