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St. Louis County restaurants looking forward to lifting of indoor dining ban

For some restaurant owners, the indoor dining ban lift expected Monday is too little, too late

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Dining enthusiasts are awaiting a big announcement from St. Louis County Executive Sam Page Wednesday morning. He's expected to announce a reopening strategy for indoor dining at restaurants and bars.

Dining rooms have been closed in St. Louis County for the past six weeks.

"We're very excited," Owner of Herbie's and Kingside Diner, Aaron Teitelbaum, tells 5 On Your Side, "It's definitely been difficult, we're down about 60 to 65% of our sales."

Teitelbaum says indoor dining restrictions are not just hard on business, but also on employees. The dining rooms were closed during a time when tips are high and gatherings can be large, but like fellow restaurant owner Qui Tran, Aaron doesn't blame Page. 

"I'm not upset with Dr. Sam Page," Mai Lee and Nudo House owner Qui Tran tells 5 On Your Side, "More than anything, I'm kind of upset that we can't come together and just do the right thing."  

The right thing being following guidelines put in place months ago. Tran says restaurants can open their dining rooms back up if people wear masks and are considerate of each other's health.

Both Tran and Teitelbaum hope customers follow the new guidelines Page announces Wednesday morning.

"We're just grateful that Dr. Page's office and the Health Department is working so hard to get us back open," Teitelbaum tells 5 On Your Side, "We're excited for what's what's coming in the new year."

He's excited for the new year, but only if people stay responsible. Teitlebaum says as much in a new St. Louis County Health Department public service announcement, "I know it's been a long year and we want to celebrate the new year, but please celebrate responsibly."

For some restaurant owners, the indoor dining ban lift expected Monday is too little, too late.

"The damage has been done," Michael Saracino with Bartolino's tells 5 On Your Side, "The busiest months of the year have been ruined for tens of thousands of restaurant workers."

Saracino feels that county restaurants have done all that they can do to stay open. He is curious about what the new indoor guidelines will be, speculating that tables may need to be spaced 10 feet apart instead of 6. 

He is relieved that indoor dining can reopen, but says "once you lose that money, you never get it back."

Saracino is part of a group of about 40 restaurant owners who sued, challenging the indoor dining ban. The group argued that County Executive Page offered no proof that restaurants spread COVID-19. 

The Missouri Court of Appeals sided with Page to keep the indoor dining ban in place.