ST. LOUIS — Dine-in service at St. Louis area restaurants and bars will temporarily stop at midnight Thursday in the latest effort to encourage social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Leaders with the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Franklin County came together — while practicing social distancing themselves — Tuesday afternoon to make the joint announcement.
“Social distancing is the new reality,” said St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. “This practice needs to become part of our daily habits, including how we enjoy dinner out. I appreciate all the entrepreneurs who will use their creativity to support our region’s health during this critical period.”
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, restaurants and bars only will be able to offer delivery, drive-thru, carry out and curbside service.
The ban also applies to food courts, coffee houses and any other public food establishments. As for drink establishments, the ban also applies to breweries, wineries, clubs, tasting rooms and any other place that officers alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption.
Food and drink locations can allow up to 10 members of the public inside at one time to pick up their items, but they all must be standing at least six feet apart.
The ban does not apply to grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies and food pantries because food and drinks purchased at those locations is not meant to be consumed on-site.
The order will stay in place until further notice.
Page said this was not a decision they made lightly.
"Our public health experts tell us it's necessary, and when experts talk, we need to listen," Page said.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann acknowledged that this temporary change will be especially hurtful for small businesses.
"We don't intend to hurt anyone. It's in the best interest of the health of the public," he said.
While the change starts later in the week for St. Louis city, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, it's already in effect for Franklin County restaurants and bars.
Last week, regional leaders began to restrict crowd sizes. Initially, St. Louis city officials restricted crowd sizes to 1,000 people, and St. Louis County officials restricted crowd sizes to 250 people.
Regional leaders have now prohibited gatherings of 50 people.
A similar dine-in service ban went into effect Tuesday for the entire state of Illinois. The state's ban will stay in place through at least March 30.