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Restaurants, venues see reduced business as fewer college students return to campus

Restaurants and entertainment venues are seeing smaller crowds with fewer students returning to college campuses this fall

ST. LOUIS — Zachary Fleischer came to Guerrilla Street food for dinner Monday, the same day the location permanently closed.

"I was in the neighborhood about two days ago, and I didn't get notified that this was going to be closed today," Zachary Fleischer said.

RELATED: Popular St. Louis food truck closing 2 restaurant locations, refocusing efforts

It's not the only change this Washington University junior noticed as he starts a new semester.

"There is a contrast of not having as many people as you would expect here. I wouldn't say 'eerie' would be the word, but it's definitely different in a weird way," he said.

Guerilla Street Food Managing Partner Brian Hardesty said the Delmar location has always been tough, but they don't see business improving with fewer students returning to campus this year.

"The Loop was a very competitive restaurant environment, which is something that we liked. We wanted that neighborhood, but when the foot traffic kind of died off, there's not much left," Hardesty said.

Hardesty said they're turning their attention to the Webster Groves location and their food truck, which will make appearances at Hardesty's other business: 9 Mile Garden, a food truck garden.

RELATED: 9 Mile Garden reopens on Wednesday

"The food truck is really fun business. It's one that if you hustle and go where the people are, it's hard to go out of business," Hardesty said.

Other businesses aren't as mobile, so several music venues on the Loop lit up this week with a "code red" warning to "Save Our Stages."

Some of the first businesses to close due to the nature of their capacity, the Loop venues joined more than 3,000 small music venues in urging Congress to pass the "Restart Act," releasing funds to help the businesses and employees.

Ever an optimist, venue owner Joe Edwards said he is seeing some improvement along the Loop.

“Business is picking up, little by little it is picking up, especially on the weekends,” Edwards said, adding that “people are getting more comfortable coming out because they're more comfortable with people wearing masks.”

And Edwards believes hitting play on the music will restart business too.

“It'll happen. Just when, I don't know,” Edwards said.