ST. LOUIS — To say this year was a difficult one for the St. Louis restaurant industry would be a vast understatement.
Indoor dining bans. “Safer at home” orders. Furloughs. Layoffs. Making pivoting part of the permanent business model.
2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have tested every fiber of the hospitality industry’s being. Not all restaurants were able to make it through.
We said goodbye to some heavy hitters this year, including some of the oldest restaurants in the area.
This list doesn’t offer the full scope of restaurants that fell victim to 2020’s economy. In fact, we know it’s not totally comprehensive. A report run by CHD Experts in November showed 198 restaurants had permanently closed in the St. Louis area since March.
But the pandemic can't be to blame for all of the closings. Several restaurants on this list closed before mid-March when dining restrictions first went into place.
From longtime institutions that served generations of hungry St. Louisans, to trendy spots and bars that depended on thirsty sports fans, here’s a roundup of some of the local restaurants that permanently closed in the St. Louis area in 2020.
1764 Public House
The Central West End restaurant abruptly closed on Jan. 12. A spokesperson for Gamlin Restaurant Group said its resources were spread too thin, and – at the time – encouraged St. Louisans to visit the group’s other two establishments in the CWE. Gamlin Whiskey House and Sub Zero Vodka Bar also later closed.
1764 Public House first opened in October 2017 at 39 N. Euclid Avenue.
Al’s Cafe was one of the oldest restaurants in St. Louis when it closed its doors for good back on Feb. 28. It had been around for more than 100 years in St. Louis’ Kosciusko neighborhood.
Owner Al Beczkala told 5 On Your Side he started working there back in 1962 when he was still in high school. He was the fourth generation owner. However, he said his knees are starting to get bad, and his wife wants him to stay home.
He got emotional when talking about closing up shop.
“Going to miss all the people that I’ve knew and seen for a long time,” Beczkala said, holding back tears. “If my knees weren’t bad, we’d probably still go through it.”
Bloom Café’s last day in business was Dec. 18. This closure took with it more than what appears on the menu. As stated on its website, Bloom Café served up breakfast, lunch and opportunities.
Restaurant officials said their mission for three years was to provide great food and job opportunities for people with disabilities. They said while the café is closing, the culinary training program will continue.
Café Osage closed on Nov. 1 after 12 years in the Central West End. The café was located inside the Bowood Farms home and garden shop.
Cafe Osage was known for its breakfast and lunch service featuring farm-to-table fare sourced from local vendors or grown at Bowood Farms, a family farm located in Clarksville, Missouri, that provides the majority of the plants sold in its Central West End shop.
Caruso’s Deli in downtown St. Louis closed on Aug. 19 after 10 years on Washington Avenue.
"It's with heavy hearts that after over a decade of serving our community we must announce that due to COVID-19 we will be closing our doors for the last time this Wednesday," the post said.
Copia Restaurant in west St. Louis County closed its doors in early January after its landlord filed a lawsuit over unpaid rent. The restaurant was located inside West County Center mall.
The lawsuit accused the owner of owing more than $206,000 in rent and various fees dating back to June 2019.
Cousin Hugo’s Bar & Grill
The longtime Maplewood bar announced its closure on Sept. 9, saying they were “a victim of the COVID-19 economy.”
Cousin Hugo’s served generations of St. Louisans since 1938.
“BIG THANKS for all of your support and for 80 years of great memories. We appreciate it!” the restaurant wrote on Facebook.
Cusanelli’s was one of the oldest restaurants in the St. Louis area, serving up food and drinks in Lemay since 1954, though part of the building itself is much older.
The south St. Louis County institution served its last customers on Aug. 30.
“Due to covid and unforeseen circumstances we will be closing permanently on Sunday the 30th. We thank all our customers for supporting Cusanellis through out the years it has been our pleasure to serve you all,” the restaurant wrote on Facebook.
The bar in Maplewood was one of the first widely reported restaurant casualties of the coronavirus era, closing its doors on April 21.
The Dubliner made the announcement on Facebook, blaming the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 virus has caused The Dubliner to close for good. It was a great run. We appreciate our staff for putting their heart and soul into this place!”
The St. Louis institution closed its doors – again – on Dec. 12.
The iconic diner boarded up its windows and doors before confirming the permanent closure on Facebook. Eat Rite abruptly closed its doors in October 2017 but reopened the following spring with new owners.
"St. Louis, we are deeply saddened to announce we have permanently closed our doors downtown," the Facebook announcement said. "We want to thank all of the patrons who have supported and dined at the Eat Rite Diner since we took ownership in 2017. Our opening day, the Cardinals Home Opener, in 2018 kicked off a refreshed and rejuvenated Eat Rite Diner."
The Feasting Fox
The historic location in south St. Louis’ Dutchtown neighborhood announced its closure on Sept. 1.
Feasting Fox owners Marty and Sue Luepker said the coronavirus pandemic taught them “the important lesson of slowing down to enjoy each moment” and that they were ready to start the next chapter of their lives.
The couple brought the historic location back to life in 1993.
"What began as a restoration project of the 1913 Anheuser-Busch Inn became an once-in-a-lifetime journey managing the Al Smith’s Feasting Fox Restaurant & Pub," they wrote on Facebook.
A Fine Swine BBQ
The Metro East barbecue joint permanently closed, making the announcement on Facebook on Nov. 23.
“We have fought the good fight during these crazy times but just can’t go any longer,” A Fine Swine wrote on Facebook. “I wish we could have held on a little longer but we just can’t.”
Gamlin Whiskey House and SubZero Vodka Bar
The Gamlin Restaurant Group closed its final two locations in the Central West End on May 22, after shuttering 1764 Public House in January.
Gamlin Whiskey House and SubZero Vodka Bar had been staples in the neighborhood for more than a decade. Both were doing well before the pandemic, owner Derek Gamlin said.
"Unfortunately, it was caused by, you know, restrictions being put on us by the government that we have no control over, and so that is a very hard pill to swallow. I'm not bitter about it because I know that it's all about being healthy. But there are people like me that are going to sacrifice their lives to keep people safe," Gamlin said.
Great Grizzly Bear
Great Grizzly Bear was one of Soulard’s longest-running bars, dating back nearly 30 years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the most recent owners to close up shop for good.
“We were on a roll for the 2020 year, but COVID took us down in so many ways, but the biggest was our health, mentally and physically,” the Facebook post Wednesday said. “You guys know we’re pretty tough, but it was a crazy uphill battle and with all of the current issues and winter coming, it was just time,” the bar’s owners wrote on Facebook on Oct. 28.
This was the first restaurant to permanently close after the coronavirus pandemic started to impact the St. Louis area, though HopCat didn’t attribute that to its closure.
“Trust us that it was an incredibly difficult decision to make and one only done after every other possible option was exhausted,” the restaurant posted on its website.
HopCat’s last day was March 16. It had opened on the Delmar Loop in July 2018.
Joanie’s Pizzeria closed on Feb. 17 after 25 years of business in Soulard. The restaurant didn’t give a reason for closing but said Joanie’s To Go on Russell Boulevard would remain open.
Mangia Italiano closed its doors on Dec. 20. The restaurant on South Grand was known for its homemade Italian cuisine.
“While we have fought hard to weather this storm that is affecting us all, unfortunately we are unable to go on. We greatly appreciate the years of loyalty that everyone has shown us and we wish we could do more for you,” the restaurant wrote in a statement on Facebook.
The beloved Peruvian restaurant on Washington Avenue closed for good on Dec. 19 after 16 years in business.
Mango Peruvian Cuisine’s owners didn’t focus on pointing blame about why they were shutting down, but instead said they’ll treasure the memories they made.
"We want it to be clear that we blame nobody besides maybe an unprecedented health crises and the inexorable squeeze of a ticking clock. We could exhaust ourselves finding fault but instead we focus on the memories that will forever be in our hearts and the privilege of having served and worked with so many great people," the Calvo family wrote, in part, on Facebook.
Marley’s Bar and Grill
The longtime Ferguson bar permanently closed its doors on Nov. 23 within a week of tighter COVID-19 restrictions going back into effect in St. Louis County, which put a pause on indoor dining again.
The owners of Marley’s Bar & Grill wrote on Facebook that they knew back in March that if they were forced to shut down again, it likely would have been for good.
“We have gone through economic hard times, tornadoes, riots, and now COVID. We have had enough. The Ferguson community, family, and friends have been over the top supportive and we will never forget that. We feel this decision is best for us and we hope you all will understand. Kelly & Martin,” the owners said.
Missouri Bar and Grille
The watering hole in downtown St. Louis closed on Dec. 5 after more than 35 years in business. The owners, who are brothers, said the pandemic was just too big of a burden to bear.
"It's hurt a lot and it got to the point where we just couldn't do it," owner Jim Panopoulous said of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Sometimes good things have to come to an end," he added.
New Day Gluten Free Bakery and Café
The bakery’s last day was Dec. 2 after four years in Clayton. The owners said they just weren’t able to continue staying in business “due to the continued Covid crisis.”
The Note Bar and Vaya Con Dillas
This duo of food and drink options was located in the Park Pacific Building in downtown St. Louis. Vaya Con Dillas, which was a Mexican restaurant, and The Note Bar, which served up a hockey theme, closed dining options on March 17 due to the pandemic and did not offer takeout service.
The restaurants permanently closed in mid-May.
The Mexican restaurant had been in Hazelwood for 37 years when it announced it would close after service on Oct. 29.
No specific reason was given, but the social media announcement from Pueblo Nuevo alluded to the challenges facing many small businesses.
“It is a wild world we are living in and we ask that you be patient, be kind to each other and support your local businesses if you are able,” the post said.
Roux Royale Bar & Bistro
The St. Charles established announced its closure on Sept. 29 after five years in business.
“With the events of 2020 we don’t believe the odds are in our favor to make it through the winter months. Winters have been hard every year, but unfortunately with the unpredictability this year has brought and the craziness of life we feel it is time to move on. This is an incredibly sad moment for all of us as our employees and our customers have become our family,” the restaurant wrote on Facebook.
Ryder’s Tavern in Tower Grove South never reopened after shutting down on March 17 due to COVID-19 orders.
"I want to thank all of the people who've come into my bar over the past five years, it's been a special time," it said in a Facebook posting on May 15. "With a heavy heart, we must announce that Ryder's Tavern is now closing permanently."
Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill
This closure was possibly the first one publicly reported and attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic in the St. Louis area.
Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill made the announcement on March 31 that it would close that day. A new owner had just taken over the business the previous November.
“Unfortunately, economic conditions and other factors brought on by the Coronavirus have forced me to close the restaurant permanently,” owner Andy Spann wrote on Facebook.
He called it the end of an era, as the location on Olive Boulevard in Creve Coeur was the last Stir Crazy restaurant, once a national chain.
Tani Sushi Bistro
The Clayton restaurant abruptly closed on Feb. 29 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the St. Louis area. The sushi spot first opened in 2008 on South Bemiston Avenue.
The restaurant and bar in St. Louis’ Tower Grove South neighborhood closed on Aug. 2 after 13 years.
The owner of Three Monkeys said he planned to continue leasing the restaurant space and was “extremely excited about bringing some new surprises to this neighborhood!”
Tom’s Bar & Grill
The Central West End bar closed its doors for good this summer, making way for a medical marijuana firm.
Tom’s Bar had been open since 1976. The owner said he had been approached many times over the years to sell, but the timing of COVID-19 and the offer price from Holistic Missouri prompted him to sell now.
The deal was closed on Sept. 15.
Trailhead Brewing Company
Trailhead Brewing poured its final pint on March 8, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted the St. Louis area.
In January, the St. Charles brewery announced it was planning to close and that Schlafly would take over the spot on Main Street. Schlafly Bankside opened in May. Trailhead owner Bob Kirkwood said he wanted to retire from the brewing business.