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St. Louis County restaurants adjusting to new indoor dining rules

Conditions include collecting customers' information for contact tracing and limiting capacity to 25%

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — January 4 is the day restaurants in St Louis County can resume indoor dining, under certain conditions:

  • Restaurants can resume indoor dining with 25-percent of fire code capacity, or the total number of diners sitting at tables six feet apart, whichever number is lower.
  • Restaurants must provide employees with proper personal protective equipment, including masks, along with instruction 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.

Some restaurant owners agreed indoor dining at 25-percent capacity is a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start. Still, they hope it’s the beginning of something bigger.

At First Watch in Brentwood, Brandon Schneider walked in and requested a table for two.

“It has been a while,” said Schneider, “and especially since the weather is cold and everything. It’s nice to be able to get out and enjoy being waited on and not have to bring it home and have it delivered, because it’s always better fresh.”

Across the street from Kirkwood City Hall, there’s a huge outdoor patio that serves three or four restaurants and bars.

And that’s where customer Jim Cooper will remain.

“We’re not going to go indoors and dine,” said Cooper, “and the reason is I’m 81, and the statistics for an 81-year-old male getting COVID are very bad.”

One of the restaurants across the street from city hall is Crushed Red, and general manager Justin Fuson is glad to see customers at the counter.

Fuson said staffers maintain the 25% capacity by a simple head count. But what about collecting customer information for possible contact tracing?

“We’re keeping a log of everybody’s name and phone number,” said Fuson, “or at least one person per party that comes in. We have our Crushed Red app that you can download and scan, and that will create that digital footprint, or you can just leave your information on paper with our cashiers.”

At Bartolino’s South on Lindbergh, co-owner Michael Saracino says they will find a way to accommodate the 25-percent capacity, collecting contact information and adding Plexiglas barriers. But he adds that it necessarily affects the restaurant experience.

“It’s a little bit of an intrusion, a little bit of a barrier between that customer-bartender relationship,” said Saracino. “It makes it a little more difficult to get a feel for a person and carry out a conversation.”