Updated 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, with more comments from officials and restaurant owners
Starting at the end of the day Thursday, restaurants and bars in most of the St. Louis region will only be able to offer takeout or delivery as leaders attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Officials of the city of St. Louis and St. Louis, St. Charles and Franklin counties made the joint announcement Tuesday to shut dine-in service in restaurants and bars and enforce social distancing at all businesses. Officials in Jefferson County did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they would implement similar restrictions.
“There is nothing more important than maximizing social distancing and slowing, slowing, slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Establishments must limit service to delivery, window, walk-up or drive-thru service starting midnight on Thursday night.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said he also signed an executive order to institute social distancing measures at all businesses, for both employees and customers. The changes “will save people's lives,” Page said.
“I hope everyone is taking these measures in everyday life,” Page said at a Tuesday press conference. “It is not easy, but it is necessary, and we will do it.”
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann praised the decision earlier Tuesday by the Missouri Gaming Commission to close casino gaming boats to prevent virus spread.
“I think that’s a tremendous move forward,” Ehlmann said.
Krewson said there are about 88,000 people in the St. Louis region employed by the hospitality industry, including restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses.
She did not mention any local resources for affected workers but said those who may be laid off in the coming days could apply for unemployment benefits.
“There has to be direct help to individuals and to small businesses from the federal government in order to get through this crisis,” she said.
In the past few days, many local restaurants and bars had already decided to close their doors, reduce seating or switch to curbside pickup and delivery only.
Tatyana Telnikova, owner of the HandleBar on Manchester Avenue in the Grove neighborhood, closed her bar on Monday night.
“By being open, we’re helping spread it and we don’t even realize it,” she said. “At the same time, I have a moral obligation to my staff who are relying on this for their income.”
She is in the process of filing for mass unemployment for the more than a dozen employees who work at the Handlebar. Telnikova said she gave employees two weeks' pay — about $8,500 total — and plans to hire them back as soon as she can.
“I’m investing in the future here. After this is all weathered, people are going to need to have a drink,” she said.
Other restaurant owners, like Francis Rodriguez, have started curbside pickup. He said that’s because he can’t afford to shutter his businesses, which include Yaquis and the B-Side on Cherokee Street.
“If we close, we’re going to lose everything. We don’t have a rich family we can depend on. We don’t have a bank we can depend on,” he said. “This is our everything; it’s our house and our business.”
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