Following the examples of cities and states across the country, today, officials in St. Louis city, St. Louis County and St. Charles County announced that all restaurants and bars in those areas must close for dine-in service beginning Thursday, March 19 by midnight.
The measure is expected to last for at least a few weeks, according to comments from state officials this afternoon.
Issued by executive orders in each municipality, these measures are being taken in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants will be able to remain open for delivery, carryout, drive-thru and curbside services, something many small restaurants in the St. Louis area have already done in recent days in order to protect public health and the health of their employees.
In attendance at the press conference were St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, as well as Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker and Director of Health for the City of St. Louis Dr. Fredrick Echols, among others. The officials stood six-feet apart from one another in a show of solidarity for practicing proper social distancing.
"At this time, there is nothing more important than maximizing social distancing and slowing, slowing, slowing, the spread of the COVID-19 virus," Krewson said at the press conference. "I completely believe that our bar and restaurant community is a very responsible community and will by and large abide by this restriction. They understand; they're smart people and they are seeing the CDC guidelines just like all of us."
Page said that although this is a serious challenge for business owners, the goal is to limit the spread of the virus, something public health experts have stressed to elected officials. Page said that he's been in contact with small business owners in St. Louis County in recent days and that he's already seen many restaurants and bars taking these measures voluntarily.
"Most of them have already shifted to carryout — they want to do the right thing for the community and they don't want to expose their employees to more risk than they need to," Page said. "I think we'll see restaurants step up with curbside service that haven't previously offered that; we've already seen a little bit of that."
The announcement comes days after Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that the entire state of Illinois will take the same measure to encourage social distancing and help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. So far Missouri Governor Mike Parson has not announced any sort of statewide mandate for bars and restaurants.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said that the executive orders are not intended to close businesses but to change the way they do business.
"Personally, I have a lot of faith in our small business people, our restauranteurs and all the people impacted by this," Ehlmann said. "They're going to find a way to still provide the services they provide and make the money they need to make for their employees. I predict you're going to see some very original thinking here. I know for sure that people aren't going to stop eating. I've got a bad habit of eating out and I don't think I can cook more than one or two things, so I'm still going to be eating out and I think most of you are, too. Let's have confidence in them; they're going to do everything we ask of them for the health and safety of the public and still provide that service."
If a restaurant or bar doesn’t follow the executive orders, Ehlmann said they would be held accountable.
“We would send them a [citation], put them on notice and get a judge to order them to close,” Ehlmann said, adding that law enforcement would then force the business to close after receiving the order from a judge.
If your favorite restaurant offers delivery, carryout, drive-thru and/or curbside services, now would be the time to use your purchasing power to show your support. And if your favorite local restaurants and bars don't offer those services, consider buying gift cards to use in the future.
In her closing remarks, Krewson asked people across the metro area to observe social distancing but not forget how important it is to still support and rely on one another in our community to get through this public health crisis.
"The buzzword now is social distancing, right? But now, more than ever, we need to rely on one another and be with one another," Krewson said. "This whole 'social distancing' word is a necessary word, but we have a lot of people depending on us and each of you have people depending on yourself. Let's not take that to an extreme except about how far apart we're standing."
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.
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.
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