St. Louis County allows restaurants and bars to expand to 50-percent capacity

Plexiglas+shields+protect+Robertos+patrons+from+one+another%2C+as+seen+in+June+2020+when+restaurants+could+reopen+to+indoor+dining+in+St.+Louis+County+after+a+stay-at-home+order.+

Photo by Deborah Baker

Plexiglas shields protect Roberto’s patrons from one another, as seen in June 2020 when restaurants could reopen to indoor dining in St. Louis County after a stay-at-home order.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

St. Louis County will allow businesses, including restaurants and bars, to expand capacity to 50 percent beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The county said the change comes with a decrease in cases and improvement of key metrics tracking the COVID-19 pandemic, including hospitalizations, along with continued “strong compliance” with public health orders by the public.

The current capacity limit is 25 percent, which has been in place since July 31. All other safety restrictions for employees and customers remain in place.

County Executive Sam Page said when the capacity was reduced to 25 percent from 50 percent July 31 that the move was in response to daily hospitalization rates rising to more than 40, over the number that the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says is sustainable for the health system. The seven-day moving average of new hospitalizations fell to 53 Tuesday from 54 Monday, but the latest daily numbers are hovering just above that threshold of 40 for the first time since July, going down to 42 from 41 Monday.

“We have been measured and thoughtful in our response to this pandemic and listened closely to our various advisory groups on how to reopen our businesses in a way that is safe to employees and customers,” Page said in the announcement.

The county Department of Public Health has worked closely with its Restaurant Advisory Group, which led to reopening indoor dining in restaurants at 25-percent capacity Jan. 4 and relaxing curfew to 11 p.m., from 10 p.m., on Feb. 1.

The Department of Public Health still considers indoor dining a risky activity, and St. Louis County’s Safer at Home Order, a stay-at-home advisory that encourages residents to stay home but still allows businesses to stay open, remains in place indefinitely. It went into effect Nov. 17.

“While COVID-19 case numbers have decreased and some associated metrics have started to improve, it is still imperative that stringent mitigation strategies continue to be employed to control community transmission of the virus, which still has the potential to overwhelm the health care system in the St. Louis region,” states the amended public health order changing capacity limits. “The most important action that every individual can take to protect themselves and others is to limit unnecessary person-to-person interactions outside of their household.”

Under the revised public health order, all restaurants and bars are limited to 50 percent or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy or are limited to the number of tables in the facility where individual groups are able to sit 6 feet apart from other individual groups. All restaurants and bars must abide by whichever is less.

Also, under the revised public health order, the following guidelines for restaurants and bars remain in place:

• Close by 11 p.m. for indoor and outdoor service. Carryout and delivery are not subject to the 11 p.m. curfew.

• Provide employees and volunteers working in the business’ facility with face masks or supplies to make face coverings.

• Require customers to wear face masks at all times when they are interacting with or being served by a restaurant employee.

• Require customers to remain seated except when going to the restroom.

• Comply with social distancing requirements, disinfection processes and any additional applicable requirements as determined by DPH. These additional requirements are posted on stlcorona.com and relate to general and business-specific operating standards, guidelines and protocols.

• Assist DPH with contact tracing when asked.

• Weather permitting, all restaurants and bars are encouraged to continue to provide outdoor service, carryout and delivery.

Banquet facilities are also subject to the 50-percent capacity limitation or 50 people or fewer if the fire or building code allows 100 or more people. Banquet facilities must comply with all the operating guidelines of restaurants and bars.

The revised order will be posted on stlcorona.com this afternoon.