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'Getting people to work': Why these landmark St. Louis restaurants chose to reopen

"First, getting people to work. From what I hear, so many people are just busting at the seams"
Credit: SLBJ
Patrons sit at a retrofitted bar at Milo's.

ST. LOUIS — A look around St. Louis Monday reveals that relatively few restaurants and bars have chosen to reopen for diners, despite being allowed to do so.

Milo's, an institution on The Hill, is different. Sure, there is plexiglass between tables and bar seats, and the longtime entrance is now "exit only," but despite intermittent rain, patrons stood on the patio as always, near the bocce ball courts.

Concerns over crowd limits and employee and customer safety prompted many restaurants to hold off on opening to dine-in customers. So what motivated Milo's?

"First, getting people to work," said owner and St. Louis Alderman Joe Vollmer. Also, "from what I hear, so many people are just busting at the seams."

It's a similar story for the other few restaurants that opened in St. Louis on Monday. The urge to bring back employees and the chance to recoup revenue lost during two months of shutdowns outweighed any other concerns.

“We really want to get our employees back to work," said Paul Hamilton, who opened his Eleven Eleven Mississippi for dinner Monday. The restaurant will resume lunch service Tuesday as well. "We hope to break even, or even better, which we weren’t doing with curbside delivery.”

Favazza’s Restaurant & Catering on The Hill opened its dining room and outdoor patio Monday for lunch and dinner business. Owners John and Tony Favazza shifted the business to carryout and curbside pickup once shutdown orders took effect in March, but they only collected about 20% of what they'd typically make.

Reopening Monday won't help the brothers recoup all of that lost 80%. It'll miss out on many of the 450 or so private events it hosts each year. And its restaurant space is only allowed under city regulations to hold 125 to 130 people —  25% of its typical capacity.

“It’s nice to be big, not when you’re losing all the business, but it’s good now because our 25% is much bigger than a smaller restaurant,” Favazza said.

The Favazzas used a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to grow its staff back up from 18 to just over 50 as it prepared for reopening. It took out a couple of small tables and rearranged others to allow more spacing between customers. 

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