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Indoor dining for vaccinated guests only: St. Louis restaurant group shares new vaccine requirements

Ben Poremba with the Bengelina Hospitality Group announced workers have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and only vaccinated diners can make indoor reservations

ST. LOUIS — Indoor dining for vaccinated guests only: St. Louis restaurant group shares new vaccine requirements

With virus cases increasing and mask mandates going back into place, a popular St. Louis restaurant group is making a move to keep guests and employees safe: various COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Ben Poremba with the Bengelina Hospitality Group announced on social media Wednesday afternoon that his group of restaurants will only accept indoor reservations for diners who are fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t vaccinated will still be able to dine outside.

Bengelina restaurants include Nixta and Bar Limon, Elaia, Olio, La Patisserie Chouquette and The Benevolent King. All restaurants are located in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Poremba didn’t say how or if employees will check the vaccination status of guests.

However, Poremba did announce a vaccine requirement for employees, and they will need to show proof they’re protected against COVID-19.

“The health and safety of our team members and their family, as well as of our guests and their family is of utmost importance,” Poremba wrote in a news release.

The three-time James Beard Award semifinalist chef said his businesses can’t afford the risks associated with unvaccinated guests. He knows the effects firsthand. The Bengelina Hospitality Group temporarily closed all five of its restaurants last July when five employees tested positive for COVID-19. The closures lasted about two weeks, but The Benevolent King in Maplewood still hasn’t reopened.

“Given the events of the last 18 months, our businesses can not afford the threat of unvaccinated individuals are exposing our staff and guests to unnecessary health risks,” Poremba wrote Wednesday.

Bengelina isn’t the only St. Louis food scene spot to speak publicly about the latest virus situation in the St. Louis area. Gezellig, a beer shop in The Grove, expressed frustration on social media as cases continue to climb.

“Once again, we can’t have nice things because some of y’all have either been way too selfish or way too dumb, but now we have to go back to wearing masks because of you. And the ironic thing is most of you were the ones complaining about the masks over the last year,” Gezellig wrote in its post.

The owners stressed “no mask, no entry,” which follows with the city’s mask mandate. And they added that they’re discussing adjusting business policies even further.

“Delete. Unfollow. We dont care. You are ruining things for the rest of us and we are fed up,” the social media post stated.

The city and county's mask mandate requires everyone 5 and older to wear a face covering in indoor public places and on public transit. The mandate also strongly encourages people to wear masks in outdoor settings when the vaccination status of everyone is unknown.