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Grace Meat + Three makes big sacrifices to help employees stay on the job

The owners aren't taking a paycheck and the employees agreed to cut their earnings so everyone could keep their job

ST. LOUIS — On a normal day, the dining room at Grace Meat + Three would be filled with lots of customers, but currently all chairs are stacked on tables and the south St. Louis restaurant is empty all because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"We're just making do with what we got," said Rick Lewis, co-owner of the restaurant.

And like many area business owners Lewis and his wife, Elisa, had to temporarily close their dine-in area to the public.

"It kind of looked like the only option, if it came to this point, would be laying off about a third of our staff," Lewis said.

A move he said would have hurt his small, 3-year-old business in The Grove neighborhood near Manchester and Tower Grove Avenue.

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So, to avoid that major setback?

"We met with our management team and made a hard request," said Lewis.

The couple decided they would no longer take a salary as long as the COVID-19 outbreak continues. Their 25 employees also agreed to take a voluntary pay cut, but they will continue to receive minimum wage plus tips.

"To make a request like that and everybody liked stepped up to the challenge, and look we're a team and a family and to move forward was pretty amazing," he said.

Moving forward also means currently the restaurant is only using its side window for customers to pick up orders.

"Even though there are limitations, we're all being very careful to try to keep extra clean," added Lewis.

Rick and Elisa also are donating 15% of the proceeds from two special dinners to restaurant workers currently unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The goodwill gesture is called "Grace Gives."

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"It's good. They can keep going and they have this window and nobody has to really have contact and that they're giving away some of their profits, so that's really good," said customer Chelsey Boxx.

"We thought we would use this time to bring community together. We are taking all of this day by day," said Elisa Ellis.

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