ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) – Some restaurant owners in St. Louis County worry that increasing capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent will not help all that much as patio season winds down.
Monday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced businesses could up capacity from 25 to 50 percent starting Wednesday at 5 p.m, citing the stable COVID-19 case numbers and businesses complying with mask requirements and social distancing.
Brant Baldanza owns several Shack restaurants in the St. Louis area. Like many owners, his sales are down 50 percent.
“Because of the six feet of distancing, we already lost 75 percent, 60 percent of our dine-in,” he said.
But Baldanza says the increase in the number of customers allowed inside his restaurant doesn’t mean much.
“As soon as that news got released this morning, I got a phone call from my mom and she said, ‘That’s great news,’ and I said, ‘Eh, not really, it’s just really the same,” he said.
Early on, Baldanza removed several tables to keep customers six feet apart. At just 25 percent capacity, he says he can’t add any more tables, while maintaining social distancing.
“It doesn’t really move the needle that much for our restaurants in town, maybe some other restaurants, it might move the needle,” he said.
If anything, he hopes the relaxed restrictions boost public confidence. Customers who spoke with News 4 say it’s a safe step in the right direction.
“As long as people are practicing good sanitary habits, I don’t see a problem with it,” one customer said.
Ande Pietoso, who owns Cafe Napoli in Clayton, also says social distancing means he can only add a few more customers inside the dining room. He is trying to stock up on heaters, hoping patio season can be stretched out.
“I’ve been trying to get them everywhere in the country and they’re all sold out,” Peitoso said.
At nearby Schnarr’s Hardware Store, owner Frank Blair says restaurant owners are a big reason why patio heaters are flying off the shelves and business is booming.