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'We're hanging on for dear life' | St. Louis business owners struggling, but some say it's still too soon to fully reopen

"We're honestly hanging on for dear life... But my number one fear is the health and safety of my team, so I'm not going to reopen on Monday."

ST. LOUIS — Nearly three years ago, an enthusiastic Steve Albers opened Center Ice Brewery in midtown St. Louis with high hopes.

"In July of 2017 we came out of the gates flying. Being the new brewery in town and then rolling right into the hockey season," Albers said.

However, Albers said for the last three months, his start-up business has been on ice, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We had big plans for the next couple of years and all of those plans are put on ice right now with COVID-19. We're honestly hanging on for dear life," Albers said.

While many businesses will reopen Monday, Albers says no way.

"My number one fear is the health and safety of team, my five employees.  With all the unknowns with COVID-19, that's my biggest fear," Albers said.

The young entrepreneur said even though his business is struggling and sales are down 80 percent, he still thinks it's too soon to let dine-in customers back inside his hockey bar.

"People being here and potentially spreading it to my team, my team getting sick, us having to close the business again and potentially quarantining again? We've just decided we'll find alternative solutions," he said.

At Grace Meat + Three in the Tower Grove Neighborhood, the owner also isn't ready to open his restaurant on Monday. 

However, for the past two weeks, Rick Lewis has offered a second, curbside window where his customers can place to-go orders.

"It was obviously you know a big enough concern to close everything and there really haven't been any changes since then. I do think it's too soon to reopen. We can control a lot more of the variables staying with walk-up window service," Lewis said.

Two budding business owners, who are committed to curbside sales, hold on to their beliefs as they try to hold on to their businesses.

"I hope things go back to normal in August or October. That would be fantastic, but do I think it's realistic? I mean outside of the brewery as a subjective person, I don't think things will be back to normal by October. I hope I'm wrong," Albers said.

"I'm confident in the fact that we're going to be able to make it through this," Lewis said.

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