SuperTalk Mississippi

Restaurateur St. John doesn’t think 50 percent capacity guideline can work

Recently, Governor Tate Reeves announced that small businesses such as restaurants are allowed to reopen in the state of Mississippi. However, Hattiesburg, the state’s fourth-largest city, has decided to put a halt on reopening restaurants.

Robert St. John, who owns six restaurants and two bars in Hattiesburg, joined The Gallo Show on Thursday morning to talk about Mayor Toby Barker’s decision to keep restaurants closed.

“The mayor in Hattiesburg has decided to wait until Monday to give it another call, and I think he based his on recent numbers that he has gotten at Forrest General Hospital,” St. John said. “I think you have half the population chomping at the bit ready to open everything back up and get at it and about half the population still wanting to shelter in place. It’s with most decisions. You make half the people happy and half the people mad”

The strict guidelines that come with Reeves’ executive order will force restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity, and St. John says this will be an issue for numerous food businesses across the state.

“When you are forced to seat 50 percent of your dining room, you just can’t make that business model work,” St. John said. “After this pandemic across the country, restaurants just aren’t going to be able to reopen. What I have learned since this started is that a lot of people just kind of lump restaurants into regular retail business. They run on very low margins…but we also operate on seating capacity.”

St. John also noted that it is going to be a slow process, yet some good will come out of this pandemic—like restaurants stepping up their sanitation processes.

“It’s going to come back very slowly, and people are going to be very cautious,” St. John said. “Restaurants are going to be very responsible and really step up the sanitation and the health standards.”

To hear the full interview with Robert St. John, click the video below.

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