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How St. Louis County officials, restaurant owners worked to develop indoor dining rules

One restaurant owner said the restaurant advisory panel was a constructive and collaborative process

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Restaurants in St. Louis County can resume indoor dining Monday, with restrictions. Those include seating at 25% capacity and recording patrons’ name and number information for possible contact tracing.

County Executive Dr. Sam Page has referenced a county restaurant advisory panel that has played a role in this process.

Tim Karagiannis, the owner of Spiro’s in Chesterfield and St. Charles, was part of that panel.

“I did reach out to the health department before I was asked,” said Karagiannis. “I did send a couple emails, so I believe that’s partly why it opened the conversation. But it wasn’t in a negative tone.”

Here are the conditions restaurants in St. Louis County can resume indoor dining beginning Monday, Jan. 4:

  • Restaurants can resume indoor dining with 25% of fire code capacity, or the total number of diners sitting at tables 6 feet apart, whichever number is lower.
  • Restaurants must provide employees with proper personal protective equipment, including masks, along with instructions on how to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10 p.m.
  • Some bars will need to install physical barriers, like plastic or Plexiglas.
  • Restaurants and bars must make provisions for contact tracing.

Karagiannis said he found county health officials receptive to what restaurant owners had to say.

“Oh yes,” he said. “They took our questions, and then they answered them. And they also listened to our advice, and we listened to them. We went back and forth and made sure we accomplished what we needed to accomplish.”

Karagiannis said the process was constructive and collaborative.

“Well in this panel, we didn’t have a lot of push-back,” said Karagiannis. “This was more a matter of – what can we do to open these restaurants safely.”

Karagiannis said even after restaurants fully reopen, he believes the advisory panel will continue to meet with county health officials, to stay on top of whatever guidelines are needed to keep restaurants safe and open.

During a scheduled briefing Monday morning, Page said the reason the county could resume dining indoors is because COVID-19 numbers are trending in the right direction. However, he stressed that even with the new safety protocols in place, eating inside a restaurant still poses a risk of contracting the virus for both diners and employees.

The county executive said the county health department will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends, including vaccine availability, in making potential future decisions about whether to tighten or loosen restrictions.