ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Typically, Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen is closed on Mondays, but they opened November 16 for what they’re calling “one last hurrah.”
It’s their last chance to serve customers indoors for the next month and a way for employees to make money before their hours are cut short.
“I want to get my employees to get some money. A lot of us think that they’ve said four weeks, but we think it’ll go much longer than that, maybe 6-8 weeks and that puts us into the holiday season and there’s no evidence of any federal or state money to help them,” said owner Bill Kunz. “So we have to give them a chance to make some money.”
However, there is a growing list of restaurants who say they’ll defy St. Louis County orders and remain open for indoor dining, including Bartolino’s in South County and Satchmo’s Bar and Grill in Creve Coeur.
“It's not fair because the other areas in the St. Louis metro area are able to have dine-in service and we're not able to do that, it's just not a fair playing field,” said Michael Saracino, owner of Bartolino’s. “I want to do this for our employees and representatives of our fellow restaurant owners too. We just want to make a stand and feel that it’s right. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem and we haven’t been afforded that opportunity.”
The Missouri Restaurant Association joined the lawsuit, saying restaurants that follow appropriate guidelines are as safe as other retail establishments not ordered to close.
“Restaurants in St. Louis County will be devastated by this shutting down of in-person dining. Many industry employees will find themselves out of work with the holidays approaching,” Bob Bonney, CEO of the MRA, said in a statement. “This temporary order will likely result in the permanent closure of many restaurants across the county.”
County Executive Sam Page’s office said there could be repercussions for restaurants that don’t abide by the guidelines.
The County Counselor’s Office can file a temporary restraining order against the restaurant, causing them to close until a judge hears the case. In other instances, Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s office can investigate compliance issues as a misdemeanor. Bell told News 4 he hopes it doesn’t get to that point.
“With any case, we look at these on a case by cases basis, but it’s not our intent to prosecute,” he said. “We focus on prosecuting serious and violent offenses. Having said that, there is authority for us because the health department does have authorization to implement these orders, and a violation of such could come to our office. But again, we don’t want to go in that direction.”
County leaders say they want to work with restaurant owners to ensure they can still continue operating in some capacity. whether that be carry-out, or outdoor dining with tents that meet the health department’s requirements.