Taco Buddha closes patio, returns to curbside-only service

Just weeks after St. Louis restaurants reopened under special guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Taco Buddha in University City has decided to put its limited seating patio service temporarily on hold again.

In an email sent on June 30, owner Kurt Eller and his team apologized for “being inconsistent and inconveniencing any of our customers,” and mentioned that they want to provide food to the community in the safest way possible while looking out for the health of both their customers and employees.

Many business owners are rethinking the risks associated with reopening after results in states that have reopened aggressively. In Eller's home state of Texas, bars were forced to close again, and restaurant capacity has been limited to 50% as of Monday, June 29. The average number of confirmed cases per day in the U.S. had risen by 60% over the two weeks leading up to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision, according to the Associated Press.

“When I factored in all the variables, it didn't make sense for us to take the risk,” Eller said. “I’m really trying to look at this more on a national level because people are traveling around. We’re all connected, and that’s what concerns me. … I don't want to be a part of the problem.” 

Eller said he doesn't know how other restaurants will respond, but that his decision was one that made sense for Taco Buddha in particular. He made sure to note that he believes each restaurant to be in a unique position in regards to the virus. “My decision is certainly not a judgment of other restaurants, who are all in different situations,” he said. “Hopefully I'm the wrong one and they're the right ones.”

He noted that a big difference between Taco Buddha and other restaurants is the amount that curbside service has made sense for his customers. “We can service our customers really well with our curbside pickup with almost zero chance of spreading the virus,” he said. “A lot of restaurants aren't in that position.”

Taco Buddha will continue offering curbside service and will continue to monitor the risk with an eye toward reopening the patio as soon as they feel safe to do so.

Multiple downtown St. Louis establishments have also decided to close their doors indefinitely after weighing the risks, while Herbie’s in Clayton has shuttered until July 6 after a diner tested positive for the virus, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.