ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Two St. Charles County business owners involved in a lawsuit with the city and county are pleased with the county's decision to lift a 11 p.m. curfew.
The curfew, put into place days before Thanksgiving, required restaurants and bars that serve alcohol to close at 11 p.m.
"If you don't have a liquor license, like Denny's or Waffle House, you could stay open 24 hours and we didn't think that was fair," said Kyle Dent, owner of Shamrocks Pub and Grill in St. Peters.
Dent, along with Tony Bethmann, owner of Tony's on Main, filed the lawsuit shortly after the curfew was put in place, arguing it was "arbitrary and capricious in nature."
"It's bizarre," said Bethmann. "You can walk into a convenience store with no mask on and put your hands all over the hot dog roller and grab a bun and ketchup and mustard. You can put your dirty lottery tickets on the counter at any time and that's okay? But certain business have to be at 0 percent capacity at 11:01?"
A judge initially denied their request for a restraining order, but their attorney, Dan Goldberg, said evidence isn't presented at the initial hearing.
However, last week, the deposition took place, including testimony from County Executive Steve Ehlmann and Public Health Director Demetrius Cianci-Chapman.
"I think we got our point across and I think what was discovered, we thought the ban would be lifted fairly soon," said Dent.
Goldberg said he felt the testimony given by Ehlmann and Chapman actually supported his clients' claim that the original order was arbitrary.
Dent and Bethmann said they decided to litigate the curfew after seeing the toll it was taking on their employees.
"Our employees struggle when these restrictions go into place," said Bethmann. "For every dollar out of our pocket, it's about 25 or 30 cents out of the employee's pocket."
The two men also grew frustrated with the ability of Ameristar Casino to sell alcohol well beyond 11 p.m.
"The casino didn't have a lot to do with it, it had everything to do with it," said Bethmann. "If they would have shut down the casino to drinks at 11:00, none of this would have ever happened."
Dent said over the course of a month, he lost about $27,000 in revenue to the curfew.
"Those two hours from 11 to 1 a.m. are big for us," he said. "That's not including tips that my staff lost out on. When we're keeping people safe, that's the hard part. You're just kicking dollar bills out your front door."
On Monday night, County Executive Ehlmann sent a letter to restaurant and bar owners. In it, he cites plateauing COVID-19 numbers in the county as a reason to lift the curfew.
The letter said in part, "During the month of December and continuing to this date, there have been no spikes in the number of cases in St. Charles County and hospitalization rates have not increased."
However, Ehlmann also encourages people to continue to wear masks, socially distance and remain vigilant, stating the pandemic is far from over.
The three men said it's hard to say for sure that the discoveries during the deposition led to the county's reversal, but they're pleased with the result.