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Missouri restaurants’ quest to overturn St. Louis County indoor dining ban stalls

  

A group of Missouri restaurants’ bid to overturn St. Louis County’s indoor dining ban hit another roadblock Friday.

The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District declined to overturn a lower court’s decision not to issue a temporary restraining order. The restaurants sought a writ of mandamus to compel the lower court to block enforcement of the county’s “Safer at Home” order pending county council approval.

The restaurants, along with the Missouri Restaurant Association, have fought St. Louis County’s ban on indoor dining, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in court.

The county order, which went into effect on Nov. 17, said: “The intent of this order is to limit the transmission of COVID-19 by encouraging people to avoid all unnecessary face-to-face interactions by staying at home to the extent possible.”

The order will remain in place until it is amended or rescinded.

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About 30 restaurants, along with the association, filed the suit opposing the restrictions. So far, four restaurants have had their health permits suspended as a result of defying the county order.

“While disappointing, we have always recognized that getting an appeals court involved this early in a case was an uphill battle. We felt that it was necessary since otherwise we might be waiting weeks or even months for a result. This means that the case returns to the trial court in Clayton for more proceedings,” state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a Republican who represented the restaurants, told The Missouri Times. 

The St. Louis County Council previously voted to reject the order through a resolution. But County Executive Dr. Sam Page called it a “symbolic vote” that “did not have the force of law.”

State Sen. Andrew Koenig pre-filed a bill earlier this month to limit county-wide shutdown orders to two initial weeks over a two-year period before requiring approval from the legislature and governor, effectively eliminating the ability for such orders to be enforced by the county.

“We will continue working to limit the pandemic’s spread so we can get back to normal as quickly as possible. We will continue our open and respectful conversations with the restaurant community so that indoor dining can reopen when it is safe,” Page said Friday.

County restaurants can still serve customers through outdoor dining, carry-out, curbside, or delivery services.

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Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.