CLAYTON, Mo. – Businesses, bars, and restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity starting Thursday. The reduction in COVID-19 restrictions comes as cases continue to fall. Occupancy is currently limited to 25 percent.
St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page cites strong compliance with public health orders for the decrease in cases. However, county health officials do still consider indoor dining a risky activity. Other safety restrictions, like St. Louis County’s mask mandate, will remain in place.
A year ago, Weber’s Front Row in Webster Groves was packed during the Super Bowl. Now it’s quiet. Owner Bob Weber said the staff has been shrinking.
“Some of my best people I ever worked with left for other opportunities, so that’s been really difficult,” he said.
It seemed like everyone there would be celebrating now that they can allow twice as many people inside. But because of other COVID guidelines that remain in place, there won’t be room for that many more folks.
“They all have to be six feet apart,” Weber said. “It’s difficult to get a lot more people.”
But Harry Parker, the owner of Gulf Shores Restaurant and Grill, said the new capacity limits should help. The previous limit forced his customer to wait. On some nights, they had to wait for a long time.
“We’ve been running that wait up until closing time and some people, believe it or not, we’ve had to tell some people we can’t seat you,” he said.
No one knows when restaurant capacity will jump to 100 percent. It all depends on the numbers.
“If the indicators continue to do well, I would expect a further relaxing of protocols in the future,” said Christopher Ave, director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
Restaurants and bars should still follow these guidelines outlined in the public health order:
- Close by 11 p.m. for indoor and outdoor service. Carry-out and delivery are not subject to the 11 p.m. curfew.
- Provide employees and volunteers working in the businesses’ facility with face masks or supplies to make face coverings.
- Require customers to wear face masks at all times when they are interacting with or being served by a restaurant employee.
- Require customers to remain seated except when going to the restroom.
- Comply with social distancing requirements, disinfection processes and any additional applicable requirements.
- All restaurants and bars are encouraged to continue to provide outdoor service, carryout and delivery.
- Banquet facilities are also subject to the 50% capacity limitation OR 50 people or less if the fire or building code allows 100 or more people. Banquet facilities must comply with all the operating guidelines of restaurants and bars.
The revised order was posted to stlcorona.com Tuesday afternoon.
This development comes as the county pauses its vaccinations due to lack of doses from the state.
“The state had led us to believe we would receive regular shipments but the last shipment we got from the state was received on Jan. 19,” Ave said. “At one point last week, they alerted us that they were sending vaccines and they even sent us a copy of an automated note that we were going to get vaccines very soon, and then they came back and said, ‘No, we canceled that.'”
Other local officials are calling Missouri’s distribution plan inequitable. Tim Brinker, the Franklin County presiding commissioner, said the state is not following its own published population-based allocation plan. He said the state’s Region C, which includes Franklin County and the St. Louis area, is 37% of the state’s population yet only receiving 17% of the vaccines.
“I want to strongly suggest the population-based distribution method as advertised. I’m hearing a lot from my constituents. You know, we got over 14,000 people signed up on the Franklin County registration site alone and we at Franklin County Health Department have zero vaccines,” Brinker said.
County health officials said part of the problem is the state’s new plan to send over half of the state’s weekly vaccine supply to selected hospitals. Representatives for the hospitals say they’re glad to share their doses but can’t provide a steady supply of it to local health departments.