How to Support STL's Food and Drink Scene While Social Distancing

Mar 16, 2020 at 6:10 am

We're incredibly lucky to have a thriving and diverse food and drink scene here in St. Louis.

In trying times, restaurant owners and local diners band together to help one another. In just the past month, chefs and patrons have rallied to raise money for a Mexican restaurant after a devastating fire and turned out in droves to say farewell to a hot-dog joint, which ended up reopening due to the overwhelming amount of money it raised.

In the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus, those same restaurant owners now need that kind of above-and-beyond support multiplied by a thousand.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging all people who are able to implement social distancing to prevent the virus from infecting you — and also your neighbors, family and friends. In addition to outright avoiding dining and drinking out, cities and states are beginning to mandate that all dine-in restaurants temporarily close to help contain the virus (including the state of Illinois).

Yesterday, a joint statement from five elected officials across the St. Louis metro area signaled that a mandate to close all dine-in restaurants may not be far off. The statement — issued by St. Louis city Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Director Sam Page, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler — issued the following measures:

  • Effective immediately and for the next eight weeks, scheduled events and social gatherings with more than 50 people in attendance are prohibited across all five jurisdictions, as recommended by the CDC. This decision will be reevaluated constantly in communication with the region's top health care professionals.
  • It is recommended that by at least Wednesday, March 18, 2020, all public, private, charter and parochial schools across all five jurisdictions close until further notice. This decision will be reevaluated by April 3.
  • In Missouri, decisions regarding the mandatory closures of restaurants, bars and nightclubs remain under consideration and are expected to be made soon

Although the last measure may seem the most upsetting for local restaurant owners, the restriction on social gatherings with more than 50 people has already forced the temporary dine-in closures of some of the city's most spacious eateries. If Missouri Governor Mike Parson follows in the footsteps of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker — a decision the Riverfront Times endorses for the sake of public health — that will soon extend to all restaurants in the state.

And that's where you come in, reader. Just because you cannot grab a meal inside your favorite local restaurant right now, that doesn't mean you can't support them in other ways. Across the river, Governor Pritzker's mandate excludes delivery and curbside service, meaning that you still have plenty of options for eating local while social distancing is still necessary.

First, you have the desktop-to-doorstep classics: Plenty of local pizzerias and Chinese restaurants offer in-house delivery service, as do a handful of other concepts around town. If you live in downtown St. Louis or the Central West End, St. Louis-based bicycle-delivery service Food Pedaler is offering contactless delivery for customers.

Then there's the national food-delivery services such as DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub and Uber Eats, all of which work with a wide variety of locally owned restaurants to liven up your self-imposed quarantine.

If you've already hoarded a bounty of frozen food for the foreseeable future (and therefore left less for the rest of us), you can still rally behind your favorite local eateries and breweries by buying a gift card. Lots of local restaurants and breweries sell gift cards online; simply seek out their sites and ensure they benefit from your purchase immediately.

Also, keep in mind that a handful of locally owned restaurants operate drive-thru windows, including Yolklore in Crestwood and Byrd & Barrel.

Finally, as more and more St. Louis chefs and restaurant owners anticipate a looming mandate to temporarily close, they're getting creative with new offerings for their customers. Solutions range from dine-in restaurants transitioning to curbside pickup-only to others adding to-go meals available to purchase curbside.

Ian Froeb, the restaurant critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, compiled an incredibly helpful thread on Twitter promoting as many of these updates as possible. (Click the Tweet below to page through the whole thread.)

However you choose to support the local food and drink scene in the days and weeks to come, remember that by doing so, you're not just helping small business owners — you're also helping their employees, food suppliers and the St. Louis economy at large.

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments and we'll update this post.

For more information on COVID-19, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, and for more on the local response, go to websites for the city's health department and St. Louis County's health department.

Follow Liz Miller on Twitter at @lizzaymillah. We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected].
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