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'We're not to the old days yet' | Opening day crowds give hope to struggling St. Louis bars, restaurants

One bar owner said the home opener was the light at the end of the tunnel

ST. LOUIS — After months of struggling through the pandemic, the Cardinals home opener gave many businesses a sigh of relief.

"It was way better than I expected," said Kevin Liese, owner of Jack Patrick's Bar and Grill in downtown St. Louis. "We're not to the old days yet, but it looks like we're heading in the right direction."

Liese said even with half capacity, the crowd was bigger than he expected and yet everyone was still well-behaved. Many even stayed in their own groups while at the bar.

Over the past year, Liese said he received federal dollars to help his business stay afloat, but he still had to reduce hours to keep his employees on the payroll, and he closed his business for roughly three months. It's the worst year his business endured in 22 years. Meanwhile, many businesses around him have shut down for good.

"I definitely feel like one of the last men standing," said Liese. "There's not a lot open in my industry down here right now. I hope that changes as everything opens back up, you know, either new owners or the old owners will reconsider and try to reopen."

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Many of Jack Patrick's patrons said they loved the bar's atmosphere and felt it was the perfect place to come together during the home opener. Aside from baseball, you could hear patrons talk about whether they were vaccinated. One friend reminded his buddy to put on a mask.

"We love this spot," said Jarrod Mayhew, a loyal bar patron. "All the camaraderie, everything's good. I definitely feel safe."

"I think everybody's just trying to do their part," said Liese. "They're just trying to be careful around each other, and they've been doing that for so long. They just got really excited for baseball, just anything, any activity, where they can you know, feel like they're getting out."

When asked if Liese would break even on the home opener, he gave an emphatic yes.

"It'll be a good day," said Liese. "Opening days usually a huge day for us. This will be a really good day."

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