Restaurant owners react to St. Louis’ return to full capacity

While those in charge are dropping pandemic restrictions, restaurant owners say other issues remain

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mon – The bar at Malone’s fills up with the regular crowd, but memories are coming down. Patrons demand memorabilia – photos of the wall or logoed faucet handles – while their favorite watering hole prepares to close the store.

“We’re going to have a life. I can’t work 100 hours a week,” said owner Steve Schafermeyer.

The decision to close was made just hours before St. Louis City and County officials announced that restaurants would be at full capacity again. But Schafermeyer says they have overcome the worst pandemic restrictions and are facing a new problem: staffing.

Schafermeyer said they had two consecutive record years before the pandemic, calling 2020 “a record year in the wrong way”. Sales have since rebounded from pre-pandemic numbers, but like many restaurants, Malone doesn’t have enough staff to keep up, so Schaftermeyer is retiring with one last party.

“The juice isn’t worth the pressure,” he said.

When Malone’s front door closes, another one opens.

“I mean, I think everyone’s key word from last year was ‘Pivot, Pivot, Pivot’,” said Chef Nico Shumpert, repeating the mantra.

Shumpert will be opening a new event space this Friday, The Spot on Grand. Just a few days before its launch, he received the news of the expanded capacity with mixed reactions.

“I don’t know if packed rooms scream ‘safe’,” he said.

With 99 seats, he plans to keep his own ticketing events at half capacity, but expects some hosts to want a larger guest list. He said smaller numbers would also be easier for employees.

“It wasn’t a challenge yet, fingers crossed,” he said.

While Malone prepares for the last call, Schafermeyer is looking forward to the next chapter, one full of grandchildren, fishing and golfing.

“We’re going to have a good time and not cry,” he said. “It’s a new beginning. Not the end.”

Schafermeyer said another restaurant owner – also under-staffed – had already offered to hire a Malone employee after his last shift on Tuesday.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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