UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — When Taco Buddha staff reopened its University City patio, the outdoor option was a hit. But that's a problem during a pandemic.
"We started having people waiting for the six tables that we had, and we had to really regulate the social distancing," owner Kurt Eller said. "It started to get very concerning so quickly, which prompted our decision."
The decision: to shut down the patio until further notice.
"I didn't want to be looking back at it, being a problem that we had to rectify. I wanted to be proactive in doing this," Eller said.
Eller's business also has a sign displayed asking people to wear face masks. Regional leaders said a lot of local businesses had already voluntarily made the requirement when announcing their own decision to enact a mask mandate in St. Louis and St. Louis City.
“Making face masks or coverings mandatory is an important step to ensure we do not go backwards as a region in the fight against this virus,” St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said. “This is an effective and proven way to slow the spread in our community while allowing businesses to remain open and making sure people can enjoy their summers in a safe and responsible way.”
Health experts have said they've been concerned about the number of people in public without masks. Saturday night, people lined up outside Tin Roof in downtown St. Louis, even as the surrounding businesses announced their closures for the coronavirus.
"Those are typically the people that don't get hospitalized, but the concern is if there is a lot of virus circulating it will eventually reach those more vulnerable populations, and we will end up with more people in the hospital," St. Louis Pandemic Task Force head Dr. Alex Garza said.
Now Eller will watch the national coronavirus case counts and hope there was never a need to sacrifice his sales.
"I would be very delighted if it was the wrong decision," Eller said.
Taco Buddha does remain open for curbside delivery. Eller said the restaurant has been making runs to 120-140 cars per night.