With the rate of new COVID-19 cases falling in St. Louis County, indoor dining at bars and restaurants will resume January 4 — though they'll do so under a set of new restrictions.
In a press conference Thursday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said "the pandemic has been harder on the restaurant industry than on most," and added, "it's on all of us who value a dynamic restaurant scene in St. Louis County to support those local businesses as they weather the COVID storms."
That storm overwhelmed St. Louis County in November, when average daily cases exceeded 800. The surge prompted county health officials to ban indoor dining under a set of "Safer at Home" rules, though those restrictions are now being lifted. On Wednesday, the county's department of public health reported that average daily cases had fallen to 390.
However, the return to indoor dining comes with several new rules, including a requirement for businesses to assist in contact-tracing efforts by retaining the names and contact info of their patrons — a reflection of the infection risk that persists for indoor dining, even in spaces large enough for social distancing.
Page detailed five rules for businesses opening their doors to indoor dining next week:
Occupancy will be limited to 25 percent of the businesses' fire code capacity as long as the diners are able to be seated at tables six feet apart. Banquet facilities are limited to 25 percent capacity with a maximum occupancy of 50 people.
All kitchen and serving staff must wear face masks. Customers must be masked unless seated at their tables and consuming food or drink.
Restaurants and bars are required to close by 10 pm.
Some bars will be required to install plastic or plexiglass partitions.
To aid in contact-tracing "if that proves necessary," Page said restaurants will be required to record the names of patrons. However, the rule requires only that patrons provide one contact information per party. According to additional details released today on the county's COVID hub, contact information is defined as "first and last name and telephone number or valid email address."
Along with the new indoor dining COVID-19 restrictions going into effect on January 4, the county's Department of Public Health also released a set of PSAs encouraging safe New Year's behavior featuring the owners of Olive + Oak, Herbie's, and Cobalt Smoke & Sea.