After St. Louis County in Missouri closed indoor dining in restaurants on Tuesday, November 17, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Missouri Restaurant Association (MRA) has announced it will join forces with a local restaurant in a lawsuit to overturn the restrictions.
In a November 14 post on Facebook, Bartolino’s Osteria, an Italian restaurant, said it plans to partner with other local restaurants to file the lawsuit contesting dine-in restrictions imposed by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. Outdoor dining, delivery and carryout are still permitted.
To date, 917 county residents have died from the virus, according to KSDK. St. Louis County broke a record for daily COVID-19 cases on Monday, with an additional 1,061 new cases of infections in a single day.
“Although this total includes some delayed reports from previous days, it marks a shocking milestone that underscores the severity of the crisis,” the county’s health department said in a statement Monday morning.
The county also issued a stay-at-home order and a face mask requirement for all residents age 6 and older going out in public.
In the Facebook post, Bartolino’s said the county’s restaurants “are not going quietly.”
“Sam Page’s overreach with the arbitrary closure of indoor dining for county restaurants and bars is irresponsible,” the post states. “The final weeks of the year are consistently one of the most important times of the year for restaurant employees. Our employees are FAMILY, and Sam Page took a direct uppercut towards their livelihood.”
The Missouri Restaurant Association said the ban on dine-in service was issued without due process or an opportunity for public comment. “Restaurants in St. Louis County will be devastated by this shutting down of in-person dining,” MRA CEO Bob Bonney said in a statement. “Many industry employees will find themselves out of work with the holidays approaching. This temporary order will likely result in the permanent closure of many restaurants across the county.”
Michael Saracino, Bartolino’s co-owner, told KSDK that the order “puts us on an uneven playing field. It’s not fair, it’s not equitable, and we just don’t understand the thought process behind it.”
In a briefing on the new restrictions, Page said he recognized that bars and restaurants are facing “a very difficult time,” along with other businesses, hospitals and healthcare providers, those who have tested positive for the virus, and families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19.
“We need more resources from our federal government,” Page said, according to KSDK. “We need a continuation of the PPP program, and we need our folks in Washington to come together and come up with another relief package for all of our businesses across the country, all of our businesses who are negatively impacted by this pandemic.”
The National Restaurant Association has repeatedly called on Congress and President Trump to reach an agreement on targeted relief for restaurants. In October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a $2.2 trillion relief package that includes $120 billion in grants for restaurants impacted by the pandemic. The bill also would have provided another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and another stimulus check for $1,200 to most Americans.
The bill has not been put up for a vote in the Senate due to opposition from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many Republicans. McConnell has called the House’s $2.2 trillion figure “outrageous.”
The National Restaurant Association this week sent a letter to the National Governors Association arguing that restaurants are being wrongly treated as “scapegoats” for rising COVID-19 cases across the U.S.