ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County took new steps Friday to continue its gradual reopening process and return to a “new normal.”
The county health department outlined three restrictions that have been loosened.
Some curfews eliminated
The Safer at Home Order has been changed to eliminate curfews for restaurants, bars and casinos. Until Friday, those businesses were ordered to close at midnight.
The county has gradually been loosening this restriction, going from dining rooms being closed altogether late last fall to an 11 p.m. curfew last month.
“Everybody is excited because the opportunity to make money is there. The opportunity to continue growing the business and staying open is there,” said Breena Kuthe, general manager of Walnut Grill in Chesterfield.
Last May, Kuthe opened her fourth business two months after the coronavirus pandemic started.
“It was very, very tough. It was tough for the employees. It was tough for the staff to lose their jobs,” added Kuthe.
But now good news.
The midnight curfew is lifted and St. Louis County restaurants and bar owners, many of whom were hit hard by the pandemic, can close at their normal, longer hours.
“It was a frustrating year, but right now we’re looking at the positive sides of which is we are open. Business is back,” Kuthe said.
Haris Halilovic, assistant manager at the Walnut Grill, said: “I’m just kind of excited, looking forward to getting back to the groove of things. You know we all miss the way things used to be, and this is just one step closer to that.”
“I’m just hoping to be mask-free at some point, so we can see people’s faces again,” Brenna Kuthe said.
The midnight curfew and 50% occupancy limit are still in effect in the city of St. Louis.
Arcade games can resume
Fire up the pinball machine. Arcade games can be plugged in and played again in places like movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades.
But there are still some restrictions in place. St. Louis County said the games have to be in a separate location from dining and drinking areas, and people aren’t allowed to eat or drink around the games. The machines also need to be wiped down between each use, which can be done by the customers if cleaning supplies are provided.
Players need to continue practicing social distancing and must still wear a mask.
No masks for refs
The third change allows those who officiate outdoor youth and adult sports to do so without wearing a mask. Those officiating games and competitions inside must still wear a mask or face covering.
County officials said the changes Friday give residents and businesses a little more flexibility as more people are getting vaccinated.
“We are hopeful that with more people getting vaccinated, we can continue our gradual reopening of St. Louis County, focusing on the safety of our residents and employees,” said County Executive Dr. Sam Page.
“We have taken these steps working closely with our advisory groups to allow our businesses more flexibility in operating in a safe and measured way,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, director of the Department of Public Health.
Jacob Long, communications director for the mayor's office and the city, said the city of St. Louis looks forward to relaxing COVID-19 guidelines to match what the county announced.
“The city is hopeful that we can move in a similar direction soon as we continue to evaluate what mitigation strategies we do have in place,” Long said. “We don't have an announcement to share at this time but will be sure to let you know when we do.”
The loosening of restrictions Friday also coincides with the state of Missouri rolling out Phase 3 of its vaccine plan, which opens eligibility to all residents 16 and older.