ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — At Bartolino's South on Lindbergh, the parking lot remains empty and there was no Wednesday lunch rush.
A sign on the door reads, "St. Louis County Health Department has revoked our health permit due to our defiance of their Safer at Home order. Please know that we are doing everything to appeal the decision."
Michael Saracino is a frustrated co-owner.
“What happens next is I filed for our appeal this morning for St. Louis County Department of Public Health to get our health permit restored,” said Saraciono. “We’ll go from there.”
On Tuesday, St. Louis County Health officials also served such notices at three other restaurants - Final Destination, OT's Bar and Satchmo's.
Christopher Ave is the communications director for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
“The restaurants have a couple choices to make,” said Ave. “They certainly can submit to a plan that explains how they will come into compliance with the health order. We welcome that. Our job is to help restaurants stay open, safely.”
Ave say the other option for restaurant owners is to appeal.
“If they don't wish to change and instead want to argue what they were doing doesn't violate the public health order, then they can request a hearing and come in and make that argument.”
At Bartolino's South, Saracino is comforted by customers.
“I've been here all morning,” he said, “and the phones are ringing off the hook in support. Customers want to know what they can do. They feel terrible for us. They feel terrible for the industry, that's it's being singled-out the way it is.
Ave said restaurants are being singled-out because patrons have to take their masks off to eat, and health officials say that poses a risk. Other retail businesses are not subject to the order because people can have their masks on the entire time they are inside the establishment.
Ave says each of the restaurants in Tuesday’s action received three written warnings before their permit was revoked. Any restaurant that continues to violate the public health order will be referred to the county counselor’s office.
Health officials tried to serve notice at a fifth restaurant Tuesday, but failed to get in. Upon checking back, Wednesday, health inspectors became convinced the restaurant was no longer serving people inside. That owner of that restaurant retains his health permit.