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'It’s a total slap in the face' | St. Louis business owners react after being forced to close for violating COVID-19 regulations

"They showed up on a Tuesday and shut us down on the spot, no warnings"

ST. LOUIS — On a Friday night, the only thing busy on the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Shenandoah is the traffic.

As Keypers Piano Bar in that corner is lifeless.

Keypers Piano Bar, that's been around for 10 years, is one of 12 businesses forced to close for a month.

All shut down by the St. Louis Health Department for violating COVID-19 regulations.

Start Bar, Wheelhouse and Midtown Bar and Grill got slapped with a one year closure.

30-day closures:       

  • 101 St. Louis Sports Spirits Sand, 1724 S. Broadway
  • Bottom Line Sports Bar, 1530 S. Seventh Street
  • DB Cooper’s Safe House, 6109 Gravois Ave.
  • G&W Meat and Bavarian Sausage, 4828 Parker Ave.
  • Keypers Piano Bar, 2280 Jefferson Ave.
  • Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Blvd.
  • Reign, 1122 Washington Ave.
  • Six Stars Market, 8701 Riverview Blvd. (30-day period ends Friday)
  • Sports Zone Bevo, 4600 Gravois Ave. (reopens Jan. 29)
  • The Midwestern, 900 Spruce Street
  • Three Kings Bar & Grill, 2031 Bremen Avenue
  • Top Notch Axe Throwing, 440 N. Fourth Street

One year closures:                                                                                           

  • Midtown Bar & Grill, 2816 N. Vandeventer
  • Start Bar, 1000 Spruce Street
  • Wheelhouse, 1000 Spruce Street

The one-year closures go through Jan. 19, 2022.

Keypers' co-owner Robert Dawes says they weren't given any warnings before having to close down. 

He said on Dec. 17, 2020, they got the first notice. But it was a week before Christmas.

"It’s not who we are to lay everyone off a week before Christmas. I thought it was some type of mistake," Dawes explained. 

He says he reached out to the mayor's office and the health department, but after a week, he was left without responses. 

"We got a second notice that we had been open when they said to close and I take responsibility for that. I’m not going lay off all the employees a week before Christmas," Dawes said. 

This pushed its closure to a month and a half. 

"It’s a total slap in the face. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you think you’re doing everything right. We are very committed to our customers, to keep people safe. We’re willing to work with them, tell us what we’re doing wrong so we can fix it," Co-owner Jeff Kern said. 

Dawes believes if there was better communication, they could've corrected the matter, before being forced to close up shop.

General Manager Kat Danner with Sports Zone Bevo agrees.

"They showed up on a Tuesday and shut us down on the spot, no warnings," Danner said. 

The general manager claims there's a neighbor that has been complaining to the health department since August 2020. 

One reason for the shut down was for allegedly opening past 11 p.m. 

"They said the claim was between 11:01 and 11:20 p.m. I had everybody at the bar by 11 o'clock that night. They said that somebody went outside and came back in and that person was me," Danner added.

5 On Your Side did reach out to the health department.

A spokesperson released the following statement:

"The closure orders as well as the photos and other attachments to the orders speak clearly to each situation and why action was taken. We don't have more to add at this time."

We're told complaints from tipsters involved crowds of unmasked people not social distancing.

For now, owners eagerly wait to open and they are standing their ground. But they're ready to see their customers come back. 

"We're thankful for all of our customers. The best we can do is just try to enforce it more than we did prior, if that's even possible, and just try our best to just get by," Danner said.

MORE COVERAGE

RELATED: List: Restaurants, bars ordered to close in St. Louis over COVID-19 health violations

RELATED: Wheelhouse, Start Bar ordered to close 1 year for COVID-19 violations