ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Larry J’s Tavern on Weber Road is not allowed to open under St. Louis County stay-at-home orders. But the owner can look out his window to see where he would be legal – right across the street.
The dividing line between the city and county is on his doorstep.
“I don’t want to go against the law,” said owner Larry Kerperien. “I still believe in doing what’s respected, you know? It’s not right to go against what they tell you to. l’m not that type of person but I do wish that there would be an equal playing field for everyone.”
Kerperien’s tavern is his only source of income. He’s celebrating his 25th year in business.
“I had to borrow $10,000 from my life insurance policy to keep going,” he said.
Kerperien points out that casinos have a date on when they can reopen – June 1. But Larry says he can’t get the county to give bars a reopen date.
“It feels kind of wrong that everybody else is being allowed to open,” he said.
He’s had his table nine feet apart since before the shutdown.
“So when you’re sitting at a chair or table, you’re still going to be six feet from each other back-to-back,” he said.
Kerperien also started disinfecting four times a day. He even has a restaurant license hanging on his wall. But despite the fact he sells food, he says it’s still not enough to allow him to open.
“I do have two pizza ovens. I sell roughly 50 pizzas a week but I don’t sell enough to be considered a restaurant,” he said.
Kerperien says only establishments with full menus are allowed to open. He will not break the rules. He says the cost of that is much greater than any bar tab.
“I don’t consider them customers” he said. “These are my friends. And I miss them. I want to see them again.”
Kerperien says it’s also hard watching other bars opening up in defiance of government orders, while he continues losing money every day as he follows the rules.