City block shutdown affects longtime restaurant’s business

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 6:26 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 4:22 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- An old building is creating a dangerous situation on a St. Louis street. But it also could be forcing a longtime restaurant out.

On Grand Boulevard near Washington in the Grand Center Arts District sits Gary’s Fine Dining. Owner Gary Johnson said he’s had a prime St. Louis location, until now.

“Why are you making me suffer?” Johnson said.

He said his restaurant is the only business being affected by an entire block of Grand Boulevard being closed. The closure is because of a 100-year-old high-rise building that has become a hazard. It’s a 14-floor apartment building with Johnson’s restaurant on the ground floor.

A crumbling exterior sent bricks and masonry crashing to the sidewalk in July, so the city shut down the block.

“There is no way my business will survive if we close another one week,” Johnson said. “We’ve already been out of work for a month and a half and I refuse to go any longer.”

While Grand is closed, Washington Avenue is open and there is another entrance to Gary’s. He said those doors shouldn’t be locked.

A spokesperson for St. Louis City said inspectors make their decisions based on safety. The building has been approved for a permit and the owners are making repairs, the spokesperson said. According to the city, the building had not previously been flagged by inspectors. The last time inspectors had been there was in April for a routine occupancy inspection. The exterior stonework wouldn’t be checked during that.

Johnson said he’s been told it will take more than a month to finish the project.

“My workers need to feed their families,” he said. “They need a job.”

He pointed to people still living in the apartments there and coming and going through a back door, wondering why he didn’t get that option.

“That’s not fair to me, that’s not fair to my business,” he said.

A city spokesperson said inspectors can only respond to problems reported to them. Reports should be made to the Citizens’ Services Bureau.

A request for an interview with building management who represent the owners was not returned as of press time for this article.

Click here to access the Gary’s Fine Dining website.