Greene County Bars, Restaurants Brace For Impact As Dine-In Service Is Temporarily Halted
Describing the decision as "painful," leaders in Springfield and Greene County ordered Tuesday that all businesses “offering entertainment, amusement, and recreation” be closed to the public until April 1 in the interest of public health. Bars, taverns, or restaurants in Greene County have also been ordered closed to dine-in services as officials try to stem the spread of COVID-19; those food and drink establishments may only offer delivery, pickup and drive–thru services for now.
The new restrictions come as a fourth case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Greene County, officials said at a press briefing Tuesday evening.
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure issued the order Tuesday prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people, with a handful of exceptions. Educational institutions, daycare facilities and “daily business operations,” other than bars and restaurants, are permitted to remain open and functioning.
The order goes into effect at 12:01 AM Wednesday, March 18, according to City of Springfield spokeswoman Cora Scott. It will remain in effect until April 1 unless it is extended.
The Greene County Commission adopted similar restrictions Tuesday, according to Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, who spoke at the joint press conference.
It's 'surreal': Springfield's oldest tavern empty on St. Patrick's Day
In a sign of extraordinary times, Springfield's oldest pub, Lindberg's Tavern, was a ghost town Tuesday night on St. Patrick's Day, where a co-owner described the scene as "surreal."
Eric Weiler, co-owner of the iconic tavern on Commercial Street, told KSMU by phone he was one of only three people in the bar Tuesday night; the other two were the bartender and the cook.
His establishment had already moved its kitchen services to curbside orders only the day prior, due to the White House's recommendation and the restaurant's concern for "friends, neighbors and employees."
Weiler said he's worried about how Lindberg's bartenders and servers will survive financially.
"We're gonna try to keep them on. We're going to try to offer them cleaning projects. Of course, this all depends on how much traffic we can get through [the curbside service]," he said.
Lindberg's is pooling together all curbside food tips and splitting them between its front-of-house staff, Weiler said. He added that local musicians, bartenders and servers will receive half price off all food orders, due to the hardships they will likely face.
Concern for food service workers, local economy
Many food service workers across the county are paid hourly at the minimum wage. At the press briefing Tuesday, Springfield-Greene County Health Director Clay Goddard acknowledged this was a difficult decision for city and county leaders.
"Today's decision was a tough one. But decisive action is needed. And our elected officials took that decisive action to help break the chain of infection and protect the community's health," Goddard said.
He encouraged citizens to support restaurants moving to curbside, drive-thru and delivery services.
"Let's reward our restauranteurs for doing innovative things, and give them our business. Because they certainly need it at this difficult time," Goddard said.
According to the Springfield-Area Chamber of Commerce website, the city is home to an estimated 664 restaurants.
Violations of the new city ordinance could result in a penalty of up to $1,000 in a fine or up to 180 days in jail.