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Data shows virus' toll on St. Louis restaurants: 'Never, ever been something like this before'

Some restaurants sued St. Louis County Wednesday, seeking to overturn the ban on indoor dining
Credit: St. Louis Business Journal

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — About five St. Louis-area restaurants have permanently closed every week of the pandemic, new data show, the latest indication of Covid-19's devastating impact on local service businesses and their employees.

"It's never, ever been something like this before," said Bill Stevens, an executive with CHD Experts, a provider of market intelligence data for the foodservice and restaurant industry. "I've been in this industry 12, 13 years, and I've never seen anything even close."

The new numbers also come as some area restaurants face a renewed ban on indoor dining, which took effect Tuesday in St. Louis County amid rising Covid-19 cases. Some sued the county Wednesday, seeking to overturn the ban, amid fears they won't be able to survive a minimum four-week shutdown, in part because there has been no new federal virus aid. The prospect of further restrictions also looms.

CHD, with its U.S. offices in Chicago, last week ran reports on St. Louis' foodservice industry for the Business Journal, showing that since March, when local shutdowns began, 198 restaurants have permanently closed. That totals nearly 3% of the metro area's 7,196 food establishments, a number that includes everything from fine dining and fast casual to resorts, casinos and country clubs. The National Restaurant Association said in September that, six months into the pandemic, one in six U.S. restaurants — or about 100,000 — were closed either permanently or long-term.

Local businesses affected include recognizable names such as Cafe Osage in the Central West End and the landmark Shrine Restaurant in Belleville.

But the data make plain the impact on small, lesser-known establishments, too.

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