ST. LOUIS ( -- Beginning Monday, St. Louis County will start easing restrictions on restaurants and owners will have the option to increase capacity from 25 to 50 percent.

Tom Schmidt owns Salt + Smoke and started allowing customers to dine-in at his location in the Delmar Loop less than two weeks ago.

“Things have been going great, the response has been really wonderful,” Schmidt said. “We brought back since we opened our dining rooms, 100 people back to work, throughout the four restaurants.”

While Schmidt said dining is going well, he doesn’t plan to increase capacity to 50 percent right away. Instead, the owner said he will take a more gradual approach, looking to other restaurants for guidance.

“That’s just kind of my nature, I’ve always been more cautious throughout this whole pandemic, we’ve really been trying to take our time and see what works for other institutions, what works for other places what happens to people’s health when you make the changes.”

Across the street at Blueberry Hill, owner Joe Edwards said he plans to allow 50% of his restaurant’s capacity on Monday. With ample room, Edwards said Blueberry Hill is equipped to serve more guests safely but doesn’t think the restaurant will get to half capacity.

“We’re still watching those guidelines and all. Whether we get to 50 percent, I don’t know, we’re prepared," Edwards said. "It’s a big enough place that we can still sequester people and have physical distance, it makes perfect sense.”

As many restaurants prepare to welcome more guests, Herbie’s in Clayton is temporarily closed until at least Monday. In a statement, the restaurant said it’s deep cleaning after learning a guest tested positive after dining inside Friday night. The restaurant said that guest was in the restaurant from 7-9 p.m.

Friday, St. Louis County reported 109 new cases, the highest since May 6. According to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s office, the increase is due to more testing and a higher number of people venturing out. While masks are not mandatory at most restaurants, the county is encouraging customers to wear them whenever possible. Page is scheduled to provide additional details during a briefing Monday morning.

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