ST. LOUIS — In January 2020, Louie Panopoulous, whose family had owned the Missouri Bar & Grille since 1982, was looking forward to a good year.
"The Blues had won the Stanley Cup, the BattleHawks made us one of their home bars, and radio stations had broadcast from the bar a couple of times," said Panopoulous, who owned the popular downtown tavern the last six years with his brother Jimmy.
What's more, Square was moving into the old Post-Dispatch building nearby on Tucker Boulevard, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters would be located not far away on Jefferson Avenue. The brothers were shooting for $500,000 in sales for the year.
By March, it all started to unravel. COVID-19 struck. The bar, like other businesses, was forced to close, at that point temporarily. The BattleHawks went out of business, along with the entire XFL football league. Other sporting events, such as the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship and the U.S. Olympic team trials for gymnastics, both scheduled for Enterprise Center, were cancelled. Concerts and conventions were nonexistent.
With regulars working from home, the bar's lunch business plummeted 75%. The late night crowd, always a staple, disappeared as the city required 11 p.m. closings. It became hard to retain employees because they were getting so few hours.
Though the pandemic was the main reason for the bar's permanent closing in December, it wasn't the only one. "Downtown was deteriorating with the crime, and the homeless are everywhere," Panopoulous said. "The police don't have enough officers to patrol downtown. It was going the wrong way. No one is downtown anymore."
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