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Omicron COVID surge forcing restaurants to close; others lose customers

By Russell Kinsaul

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    SOUTH ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — Several area restaurants closed this week because too many employees caught COVID or were out waiting to get tested.

A sign on the door at O’Connell’s Irish Pub, near I-44 and Hampton Road, says the restaurant is closed. It goes on to say, “We are unfortunately unable to open at the current time due to the continued spread of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.”

A message on the restaurant’s Facebook page says the closure will “allow our staff time to heal, get those negative test results and figure out all of the scheduling.”

“Well I was wanting to eat some ribs but it was closed,” said Keith Stephenson.

Keith Stephenson drove to the Sugarfire Barbecue Restaurant in Olivette to find it was closed. A sign on the door said that it had been closed “Out of an abundance of caution.”

Compounding the staffing problem for restaurants is the surge in demand for testing. Employees who need to be tested before they can go back to work, because of a possible exposure or because they’re feeling sick, are struggling to find a place to get tested. Sometimes they’re forced to wait several days before they can get an open appointment and then another couple of days to get the results.

For restaurants that are still open, some are seeing the spike in COVID cases impact their bottom line in a different way. Dan Schultz is manager of Fallon’s Bar and Grill. He said customers who had reserved a space for a group are calling in to cancel because members of their group have had a possible exposure to someone who had COVID and need to get tested.

“One gentleman called today while he was in line, to cancel his group for tomorrow night” said Schultz.

Schultz also said, since the current surge in cases started, he’s seen fewer customers coming into his restaurant.

“People are afraid to go out,” he said.

Sugarfire is scheduled to reopen on Friday and O’Connell’s Irish Pub on Monday.

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