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Why this CWE restaurateur laid off his staff: 'I have a responsibility to these people'

"As a restaurant owner, I have a responsibility to the people I employ and I take that responsibility profoundly"
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — John Perkins knows just how challenging the restaurant industry is as the owner of Central West End eatery Juniper, but the coronavirus is testing even his resolve.

On Monday, Perkins laid off 28 of his 35 employees in order to give them more time to file for and secure unemployment benefits and to ensure his restaurant stays in business.

"As a restaurant owner, I have a responsibility to the people I employ and I take that responsibility profoundly," Perkins told the Business Journal. "The reality is that restaurants (in St. Louis) will probably be forced to close. ... At some point, there could be federal, state and possibly city relief coming in. But my employees don’t have that time.

"I'm trying to find balance and make wise decisions to weather this storm and take care of my people," he said.

Juniper, at 4101 Laclede Ave., is one of many St. Louis-area restaurants managing concerns about spreading COVID-19. Other restaurant owners, like Gerard Craft and Ben Poremba, announced Monday that they were voluntarily closing their restaurants. 

The state of Illinois on Sunday announced that all bars and restaurants must close to dine-in customers at close-of-business Monday. And while Missouri has yet to announce similar guidelines for bars and restaurants, regional leaders on Sunday imposed a ban on events of more than 50 people

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