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Restaurant industry bands together to help employees during ban on dine-in sales

Friday morning, new restrictions go into place prohibiting dine-in sales for bars and restaurants across the region

ST. LOUIS — Under photos of his those who came before him — family who emigrated from Italy — Pepe Kehm works to keep his own kitchen at Peno in Clayton open for those who need him now.

"For us, it's about trying to feed our immediate family," Kehn said of his employees, "and then to feed our restaurant family."

Kehm's keeping his staff at work with to-go and delivery and also offering free "pay it forward" meals to anyone who works in another restaurant and is currently without work.

"Being able to give somebody a little food is nothing for me, that's the easy part," Kehm said.

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The hard part: keeping his staff on the payroll as restrictions tighten around the restaurant industry.

At 12:01 Friday morning, new restrictions go into place prohibiting on-premises sales for bars and restaurants in the city of St. Louis, as well as St. Charles, St. Louis and Franklin counties.

In St. Louis' The Grove neighborhood, restaurants are banding together.

"Everyone lives day-to-day down here, night-to-night," said Sean Baltzell, owner of Takashimia Records. "It's a tip-based and kick-based economy, so we feel it is our duty as pioneers of the neighborhood and leaders to step up and help out."

Baltzell said his shops are working with others to launch Good for the Grove, collecting donations to disperse to others in the service industry. They hope to raise $25,000.

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Working to buy in bulk from a food service distributor, the restaurants that stayed open will cook up meals for workers whose businesses did not.

"We're working behind the scenes to make sure that we're thinking of every option and giving them the resources to make sure that they're getting the help they need," Baltzell said.

Owners said they're under pressure to keep the doors open as long as they can, not knowing when they'll go back to business as usual.

"We all love to work here. We don't want to be off for two weeks," Kehm said. "We want to be able to work. If we have to close to help out the whole country so this thing doesn't go on, we will."

You can donate to Good for the Grove here.

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