Looking back at 23 St. Louis restaurants we lost to the coronavirus pandemic
Over the past year, dozens of St. Louis’ restaurants have permanently closed due to the pandemic. These were spaces where we celebrated each other, connected with each other, and comforted one another. To mark this anniversary, we offer a snapshot of a year of closures through the words restaurant owners shared with us in interviews and online.
1. Bloom Cafe
2. Cafe Osage
Co-owner Lizzy Rickard: “We’re such a small restaurant. We weren’t able to do enough to make it work. We’ve always been more of a destination restaurant, where people want to stay and eat.”
“We’ve always enjoyed food being a part of the experience here. We’ll never reopen as Cafe Osage – that chapter is over. But we are always evolving and changing. We feel that there’s a good likelihood that something new will evolve in the space.”
3. Cousin Hugo’s Bar and Grill
Owner Tommy Bahn: “We tried operating at 50% occupancy and doing the to-go business, but we’re not built for to-go," he said. "This is a gathering place, like so many restaurants are.”
“People were scared to go out, and rightfully so. People were working from home, so the routine of the lunch break was gone. You come here, you watch the ball game, you went to church and came out afterwards. All those things were their routines, and that was taken out from under us.”
“We followed the CDC precautions and [our business] was viable, but barely – and you can’t run a business on barely. My heart goes out to all the people in this business. I’m not the only one dealing with it, but there’s going to be brighter days, there’s gonna be sunny days – it’s just a matter of how long you can last.”
4. Cusanelli’s Restaurant
“Due to covid and unforeseen circumstances, we will be closing permanently on Sunday the 30th,” a Facebook message said. “We thank all our customers for supporting Cusanelli's through out the years it has been our pleasure to serve you all.”
5. The Dubliner
“The COVID-19 virus has caused The Dubliner to close for good. It was a great run. We appreciate our staff for putting their heart and soul into this place! Cheers to our customers, new and old, along with our Maplewood neighbors... we love you! Thanks for the chance to serve you all. Be safe! Stay humble! And raise a pint! - The Dubliner”
6. Eat Rite Diner
“The start of 2020 was predicted to be the diner’s best year yet,” they wrote on Facebook. “Our sales were setting the tone for a phenomenal year. Unfortunately, that did not last long due to the pandemic. We thank all of our employees that worked for as long as they could or were allowed to.”
7. The Feasting Fox
Historic German restaurant The Feasting Fox announced Tuesday, Sept. 1, via Facebook that it has permanently closed. “In 1993, we took a leap of faith when we decided to bring this historic building back to life and preserve a precious piece of St. Louis,” owners Marty and Sue Luepker wrote.
“COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life and taught us the important lesson of slowing down to enjoy each moment,” it continued. “With the support of family and friends, we’ve decided it’s time to close the Feasting Fox and begin the next chapter of our lives.”
9. The Great Grizzly Bear
Co-owner Shelley McMahan: “It’s been a struggle ever since Covid started. We knew the first year would be very hard, but we just decided to give it our all. This was something my husband and I wanted to do together.”
“All of the friends we made … there’s no place like Soulard, for sure. Soulard is a unique area, and it’s very tight-knit.”
10. Local Chef Kitchen
Statement from owner Mitzi Uyemura posted to Facebook:
"Dear Friends of Local Chef Kitchen:
As many of you know, my husband, Local Chef Kitchen's executive chef and owner, Rob Uyemura, died this past February after battling colon cancer for 2 years. Local Chef Kitchen was his baby. He was the driving force behind the restaurant, and was an incredibly talented chef, gardener, local foods enthusiast, and restaurateur [sic]. One of the reasons Rob wanted to open the Kitchen was to provide a place where people could go in West County to get well-prepared, interesting, locally sourced food that didn't cost a fortune, because there wasn't anything like that available in the area. In that, I am certain he was successful.
Tony and Melvin, our chef and line cook, have kept the place going for a long time now, when Rob became too ill to work, and after he died. They've been amazing. But it's just not the same without Rob there. We've stayed open partly because it's been such a strong connection to Rob, and I didn't want to let that go. And then after the coronavirus hit and so many restaurants closed, I wanted to stay open to give folks a place to get good locally sourced food, especially with the shortages that occurred early on. I also wanted to stay open so Tony and Melvin wouldn't join the thousands of other St. Louisans who were unemployed. They've done so much to help us, I wanted to be there for them.
But owning a restaurant is an enormous amount of work, never-ending stress, and not a money maker. And with the coronavirus impacting business so significantly, it just doesn't make any sense to keep going. So I am going to close Local Chef Kitchen. We'll be open through Saturday, June 13 to give everyone a chance to come and get another meal or two. I want to go out strong. Please know what a difficult decision this has been. This time has also been very hard on our two sons, aged 14 & 17, and it is the right choice for our family. I know Rob would understand.
The best part of having Local Chef Kitchen has been you--our amazing customers! You are so loyal, supportive, and enthusiastic. You made it a true delight, and we are so grateful for your support. It has been an incredible pleasure getting to know all of you over the years, and we count many of you as friends. I am so glad that Rob got to have LCK for as long as he did, because he truly loved what he did. Thank you for everything."
11. Mangia Italiano
Mangia Italiano, famous for its inviting menu of Italian classics and infamous for its rowdy late nights, announced via Facebook that Sunday, Dec. 20, was its final day of service. The restaurant at 3145 S. Grand Blvd. was originally opened in 1983 by Richard “Doc” Parmley and his wife, Micci. “While we have fought hard to weather this storm that is affecting us all, unfortunately we are unable to go on,” the message said. “We greatly appreciate the years of loyalty that everyone has shown us and we wish we could do more for you. May you and your loved ones have a happy holiday season.”
12. Mango Peruvian
Statement from “Chef Jorge E. Calvo and family,” posted to Facebook:
"With heavy hearts, we announce the permanent closure of our beloved restaurant, Mango Peruvian Cuisine. Unfortunately, the ongoing issues surrounding the pandemic such as a lack of convention and hotel business in Downtown St. Louis, as well as capacity restrictions, have made it extremely difficult to operate in such a large restaurant space. Our last day of business will be Saturday, December 19th.
We are ever so grateful for what we have accomplished in the past 16 years. We were embraced with open arms and proudly introduced Peruvian cuisine to the community we love so much. We won countless awards and recognition from various publications and saw how those accolades translated into smiles at our tables.
We would like to express our gratitude to our dedicated and hard-working staff. Throughout the years, we have met and worked with so many people who shared our vision and gave every ounce of themselves to help us achieve something special for our community. We could not have possibly done it without you, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your commitment.
To the people of St Louis and surrounding areas who kept an open mind and let us share our love of food, drink and family, you made our dream come true, and for that, we are forever thankful.
We may be going, but the memories we have made will last forever in our hearts. Thank you for your love and support, St. Louis; we will be seeing you around."
14. Mike’s Hot Dogs
15. Three Monkeys
Popular Tower Grove South restaurant and bar Three Monkeys announced, Tuesday, July 28, via Facebook that their final service for the foreseeable future would take place Sunday, Aug. 2. The restaurant, located at 3153 Morgan Ford Road, had been going since 2007, and changed owners in 2018, when it was bought by Zach and Mary Rice.
“We are proud to have been able to serve you throughout this difficult time,” the message said. “We feel that we have done our absolute best to keep open during the pandemic and provide a service for our neighborhood. With that being said, we believe now is the time to take a step back and close our doors to focus on the future.”
16. Sacred Grounds
17. The Monocle
Co-owner Kyle Hustedt: “We had five really wonderful, interesting years. Covid brought circumstances that most bar and restaurant people can commiserate with.”
“Small stage entertainment has been devastated by this. When little houses become even smaller, it’s not sustainable.”
18. New Day Gluten Free Bakery and Café
“We have loved being a part of your lives the last four years!!” the message said. “Thank you for all the amazing love and support you have shown us!!! We will miss you all deeply.”
19. Naked Vine
Naked Vine, a bar and music venue located in Chesterfield, closed its doors permanently on Dec. 8. The closure was announced via a Facebook post. “I write this note one day short of Naked Vine’s 14th anniversary,” owner Bryan Herr wrote in the post. “Covid has gotten the best of us, and it’s time to shutter this ol’ girl.”
20. Paul Mineo’s
Owner Brigitte Mineo: “It would’ve been impossible. We had to make $3,200 a day to pay bills normally, and when you can’t be at full capacity, there’s no way it could’ve worked.”
“I just want everyone to remember the good times that they’ve had at the restaurant, because that’s what’s important in life: to be with friends and family and have fun.”
Co-owner Becky Schoenig:“I ended up in quarantine and we were short-staffed for that period of time,” she said, adding that another employee left to quarantine shortly after. “I saw the stress and the pressure the staff was under, and the account was pretty much down to nothing. If you can’t be open because you’re short-staffed, you can’t be open.”
“We had customers that had been regulars since the beginning, who were in our restaurant daily or weekly. We weren’t a restaurant that was just, ‘Let’s go out for dinner.’ We were a community hub for people to gather and connect.”
Note: This list includes locally owned restaurants only. Businesses that closed one or more locations but remain open in other locations were not included. If we missed a place, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Boyle, Eva France, Heather Hughes Huff, Meera Nagarajan, Adam Rothbarth, Adam Siddle and Liz Wolfson contributed to this story.
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