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AWARD-WINNING FLAVOR

BE ST I N SHOW

94 PO INTS

97 POI N TS

WHISKIES OF THE WORLD 2015

U LT I M A T E S P I R I T S C H A L L E N G E 2015

U LT I M A T E S P I R I T S C H A L L E N G E 2015

C R A F T E D C A R E F U L LY. D R I N K R E S P O N S I B LY. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 45.2% Alc. by Vol., The Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, KY ©2016

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Back Before You Missed Us SURPRISED TO SEE the Riverfront Times this week? To be honest, I’m a little surprised, too. We got kicked in the teeth last week. As bundles of our March 18 issue were starting their journey to newspaper boxes and whatever restaurants and coffee shops remained open in St. Louis, we were working through one excruciating phone call after another until we had laid off all but two people in our newsroom. Alt-weeklies like St. Louis’ depend on ads from bars and restaurants, and when the coronavirus knocked down their businesses, we were one domino behind. That terrible morning, it looked like we would exist only on the web for the time being. But it turns out: We are surprisingly hard to kill. If you need proof, read music editor Daniel Hill’s essay in the pages of this slim but strong issue, explaining that he simply decided we couldn’t lay him off; he would continue to work anyway. Or look at our cover story by food critic Cheryl Baehr, who was nearly finished with a heartfelt feature on the industry she has covered for more than a decade and decided the issues her sources raised were too important not to push out to the world. And that cover design? It’s another piercing piece by newly laid-off art director Evan Sult. In the coming weeks, expect to see the work of more familiar names as we push forward. We’ll figure out when and where we can safely get papers out to the public, and we’ll continue to publish online. But please remember that a small group of people here care a whole about getting this RFT to you. If you appreciate that work, please consider supporting it with a donation through our website. With any luck, we’ll back to full strength soon, but we’ll need others who care about the RFT, too. –Doyle Murphy, editor in chief

TABLE OF CONTENTS CAN’T

STO P

WO N’T

STO P

E DITIO N

Publisher Chris Keating Editor in Chief Doyle Murphy

E D I T O R I A L Digital Editor Jaime Lees Hero In A Hot Dog Suit Daniel Hill Contributors Cheryl Baehr, Trenton Almgren-Davis, Jenna Jones, Monica Obradovic, Andy Paulissen A R T & P R O D U C T I O N Editorial Layout Haimanti Germain Production Manager Haimanti Germain Design Contributor Evan Sult M U L T I M E D I A A D V E R T I S I N G Advertising Director Colin Bell Senior Account Executive Cathleen Criswell Account Managers Emily Fear, Jennifer Samuel Multimedia Account Executive Jackie Mundy C I R C U L A T I O N Circulation Manager Kevin G. Powers

COVER

E U C L I D M E D I A G R O U P Chief Executive Officer Andrew Zelman Chief Operating Officers Chris Keating, Michael Wagner VP of Digital Services Stacy Volhein www.euclidmediagroup.com

Recipe for Disaster If politicians don’t act fast, St. Louis restaurants and bars are toast Cover design by

EVAN SULT

N A T I O N A L A D V E R T I S I N G VMG Advertising 1-888-278-9866, vmgadvertising.com S U B S C R I P T I O N S Send address changes to Riverfront Times, 308 N. 21st Street, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63103. Domestic subscriptions may be purchased for $78/6 months (MO add $4.74 sales tax) and $156/year (MO add $9.48 sales tax) for first class. Allow 6-10 days for standard delivery. www.riverfronttimes.com The Riverfront Times is published weekly by Euclid Media Group | Verified Audit Member Riverfront Times 308 N. 21st Street, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63103 www.riverfronttimes.com General information: 314-754-5966 Founded by Ray Hartmann in 1977

INSIDE News Feature Culture Savage Love 6

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Riverfront Times is available free of charge, limited to one copy per reader. Additional copies of the current issue may be purchased for $1.00 plus postage, payable in advance at the Riverfront Times office. Riverfront Times may be distributed only by Riverfront Times authorized distributors. No person may, without prior written permission of Riverfront Times, take more than one copy of each Riverfront Times weekly issue. The entire contents of Riverfront Times are copyright 2020 by Riverfront Times, LLC. No portion may be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, including electronic retrieval systems, without the expressed written permission of the Publisher, Riverfront Times, 308 N. 21st Street, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63103. Please call the Riverfront Times office for back-issue information, 314-754-5966.


NEWS Note From a Laid-Off RFT Staffer Who Refuses To Leave

St. Louis County Picks First Female Police Chief Written by

DOYLE MURPHY

S

Written by

DANIEL HILL

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ast Wednesday was a very bad day. Several of my coworkers and I all awoke to news that we would be laid off as efforts to contain that goddamned coronavirus increasingly crush St. Louis’ economy. As bans against gatherings cause restaurants and bars across the metro area to close up shop, those same establishments are unable to buy the ads that keep us afloat. In addition, those bans have hurt the paper’s other primary revenue stream, which comes through throwing events, which obviously is something that we can’t do now either. Taken together, COVID-19 is, as my (now former) editor put it, a “nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies.” So seven of us were told not to report to work any further. In the age of coronavirus, we couldn’t even head to a bar and drown our sorrows together, so instead a bunch of us all videoconferenced our own Irish wake, drinking alone in our homes but together through our computers. The headache I felt the next morning served as proof that those sorrows were thoroughly drowned, albeit digitally. But as the ibuprofen started to kick in the next morning and I regained the use of some of my broken faculties, I came to a decision: I’m just not gonna stop. At this point, I don’t care if I get paid or not for doing it. The work the RFT does is more important than ever right now as we are facing down a threat the likes of which none of us have ever seen before. Local journalism is as necessary

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You can’t get rid of Daniel Hill that easily. | THEO WELLING as it ever was, and frankly doubly so at this exact moment. If there’s anything I can do to keep the public informed or entertained, I’m going to do it. It should also be noted that I am a largely unhireable moron who has never made a resume in my life and whose greatest journalistic asset is a hot dog costume (though I would argue I use that asset to decent effect), so it’s unlikely I’m gonna get hired on anywhere else anytime soon anyway. So fuck it. They’re gonna have to take all the passwords away from me if they want me to stop. My fellow laid-off coworkers are all extremely capable and hireable, by contrast, and you should consider them for your organization if you have jobs that need filled. Liz Miller is a whipsmart, impossibly organized and hilarious leader; Paul Friswold is one of the funniest and most knowledgeable human beings I’ve ever met and no slouch with the pen himself; Danny Wicentowski is a legitimately fearless reporter and unstoppable force of fucking nature and Evan Sult’s graphic design abilities and artistic vision are breathtaking to behold. Cheryl Baehr is an incredibly talented writer with a preternatural ability to tell human stories through a food lens and remember every ingredient in a dish. Hire these people.

As for me, I’m either going down with the ship dressed up like a hot dog or I’m gonna help it claw its way back until the day I can suddenly, hopefully, maybe, collect a check again. I’d greatly prefer the latter. If you agree and you have a dollar or two to give to make sure one of St. Louis’ most vital and entertaining journalistic institutions is able to stay afloat in these extremely difficult times, please consider donating through the RFT’s website. In the meantime, stay safe out there, and take care of each other. We’re gonna get through this together, but only if we choose to be kind. n

t. Louis County police Lieutenant Colonel Mary Barton will be the department’s new chief. Barton, who has served for 41 years in St. Louis, will replace Col. Jon Belmar, who announced his retirement in February. The change in leadership will happen on May 1. Barton was selected by the Board of Police Commissioners following a search process that included three town halls, where the public offered suggestions for what they wanted in a new chief. She’ll be the department’s ninth chief, and the first woman to hold the post. “Lieutenant Colonel Barton is an experienced leader with a ‘clear vision’ of an equitable future for both the Department and the community we serve,” Dr. Laurie Punch, member of the police commissioner, said in a news release. Barton was selected over Deputy Chief Kenneth Gregory, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Bader, Lieutenant Colonel Troy Doyle, Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Ludwig and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Busalaki. She was hired by the department in October 1978 after graduating from Southwest Texas University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In her four-plus decades she has worked her way up from patrol, serving as a longtime detective and has commanded the North County Precinct, and most recently was assigned to the West County Precinct. n

Lt. Col. Mary Barton. | COURTESY ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE

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Weed Stores ‘Essential’ During COVID-19 Lockdown

Let Us Have Our Alcohol, Missouri Written by

JENNA JONES

Written by

DANIEL HILL If you thought a little something like a global pandemic would stop the tax revenue bonanza that Illinois has been enjoying ever since the state legalized recreational marijuana, buddy, you thought wrong. In what is surely good news for bistate area bored stoners and medicinal patients alike, both Illinois Supply and Provisions (1014 Eastport Plaza Drive, Collinsville, Illinois; 618-381-9229) and The Green Solution (2021 Goose Lake Road, Sauget, Illinois; 618-663-4311) remain open for business even as increasingly stringent measures to control the spread of coronavirus cause other businesses to close. In a trend that is true across the nation, the dispensaries throughout Illinois have been deemed “essential” by the state of Illinois and therefore immune to more strict lockdown orders, falling under the same guidelines as pharmacies. Still, that doesn’t mean everything is business as usual. Illinois Supply and Provisions announced this week that it would discontinue walk-in sales and only accept orders placed online, in an effort to reduce crowds. “The safety of our employees, customers, and especially vulnerable patients, is our top priority,” says Kathleen Olivastro, regional director of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Illinois Supply & Provisions’ parent company, in a statement. “We understand this decision may impact some more than others, but believe it is in the best interest of everyone to make this change in the short term. We are taking direction from local, state and federal health experts as we work through this.” When we called the Collinsville store to inquire about the new procedures in place, an employee who answered the phone explained that all customers who place an order through the dispensary’s website will receive a notification via email or text when their order is ready to pick up. “Once you get a confirmation that your order is ready then you can come to the Gateway Fun Park and you can park there and show the guard your confirmation,” the employee tells the RFT. “They’ll put you in line for the shuttle to be able to come pick your order up. Once you get in line here then we kind of keep you spaced so far apart until you get to the register to pay and check out.” The Green Solution, likewise, has made dramatic changes to its protocols

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Dispensaries in Illinois are obviously “essential” these days. | LIZ MILLER in light of the threat of COVID-19. “Right now all of our Illinois locations remain open — as you probably have read they have been designated as essential businesses along with pharmacies, so they have been open and they will continue to remain open until we expect to hear anything else,” says Michael Perlman, executive vice president of investor relations and treasurer of Jushi, the Green Solution’s parent company. “We are taking actions in-store to maintain the health and safety of our employees as well as our customers.” Those actions include sanitizing high-touch surfaces, deep cleaning and sanitizing work stations, sanitizing and washing hands after every transaction, Perlman explains. The dispensary is also ensuring that hand sanitizer is available to both employees and customers, suspending all use of paper menus, and suspending all use of demo products. “Anything that would be touched or handled by our employees or customers, we are eliminating all of the use of that,” Perlman says. “We’re also, when we can, we’re positioning staff at every other register. We’re also requiring all customers to remain six feet apart.” Taped marks on the floor designate where patients are to stand, Perlman says, and cones outside do the same. He says that customers are also encouraged to wait in their cars until it their turn to be called in. Even with all the strict measures, and even despite the widespread orders for social distancing, Perlman says business is positively booming. Demand is not down, he says — in fact, quite the opposite. “I think folks are making sure that they get what they need while everything else is closed, and they probably are stocking up a little bit given that they don’t know whether or not these locations will remain open,” he says. “That has yet to be determined. As far as we know they will remain open. “We’ve received positive feedback from each of our states’ representatives in terms of keeping them open, and we will do so,” he adds. “And we will do so in a safe way for both our employees and customers.” n

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There is a finite amount of activities and crafts one can do while social distancing, but alcohol is forever. That is until Missouri shut down restaurants offering to-go alcohol options. Co-owner of Mission Taco Joint Adam Tilford had closed his six locations of the restaurant on March 16 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. As a way to keep at least a little money coming in, they started transitioning to a take-out and delivery model, but still had to lay off 300 employees, leaving only a handful of staffers. “[We had to] keep a skeleton crew to execute our new model to try to survive this crisis as a company, and also do what we could to assist our furloughed employees,” Tilford writes in an email to the RFT. So, Tilford and his company went to work. The margarita and Mexican food favorite found the solution in offering pre-batched margaritas along with a family taco kit. They offered the margaritas by the quart and half-gallon. They started March 18 and were making good tips that were allowing the owners to help pay furloughed employees’ insurance. Then, the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control called Tilford. “I pleaded that we were batching the margaritas and packaging them with sealed caps, but they still would not allow this,” Tilford says. “I will say that they did not tell us that we were in any

trouble, but just let us know that we needed to stop selling them.” The owner asked for a waiver from the department, citing other states like New York and Texas, due to the current COVID-19 outbreak and its effect on business. However, Tilford had yet to hear back from the department when contacted by the RFT. In these hard times, the pre-batched margaritas were keeping the business afloat. “My amazing team, and I cannot begin to tell you how incredible this group of hardworking people have been this week, quickly transitioned to selling margarita kits,” Tilford says. Instead of actual margaritas, the kits include the necessary components — including private-label tequila Una Vida and a Mission Taco Joint margarita mix — that customers can use to mix their own drinks at home. The kits costs $80. “That’s great, but we have to sell those for $80 just to make a little profit, when we should be selling them for $120 to make industry-standard margins,” Tilford said. “$80 is a lot of money, whereas $20 for a quart and $40 for a half gallon of margaritas was a lot more affordable for people.” The business is urging customers to call the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control at 573-751-2333 and tell them to allow restaurants to offer these to-go alcohol options in this pandemic. Tilford stressed the importance of banding together and supporting small businesses in this time. The temporary waiver from the Missouri Alcohol and Tobacco Control could provide the assistance necessary for local restaurants. “This is going to hurt many small businesses already struggling to keep their head above water,” Tilford says. “Seems like a simple gesture that could help at a time like this.” n

Come on, ease up on the booze restrictions. | KELLY GLUECK


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e probably won’t survive.”

Not five minutes after David Sandusky sent out a press release announcing that he would be shuttering BEAST Butchery & Block for everything but takeout and dining services, the pitmaster and restaurateur offered a sobering analysis of his future in the industry. Not yet a year ago, Sandusky and his wife, Meggan, took a huge leap, expanding their critically acclaimed Belleville smokehouse, BEAST Craft BBQ, to this side of the river. Their vision was ambitious: A smokehouse, butcher and grocery shop and a live-fire demo kitchen and events space where Sandusky planned to offer a chef’s table-style, fine-dining take on barbecue. From June 2019 until March 16, 2020, the Sanduskys were chugging along. There had been struggles along the way – business had started out slower than they’d hoped, bills piled up – but they’d made the right adjustments and seemed to be finally figuring things out. Then COVID-19 hit.

“I had to lay off 45 people,” Sandusky says. “I think the restaurant industry needed a correction, but not like this. This is devastation. We’re going to be lucky to come out of this. I’m hopeful people will come out on the back end of this and want to spend money on dining and stretch their legs again, but I am worried that they will be extremely conservative with their cash – and rightfully so. If this isn’t a long thing, I hope we can pull out of this. Barely.” The Sanduskys are far from alone in their struggles. In mere weeks, the St. Louis restaurant community as a whole has gone from touting several James Beard Award nominations as a sign of its ascendance to having its very existence threatened by a global pandemic. The speed with which the coronavirus disaster hit business owners, employees and vendors has been dizzying. At the beginning of March, the local restaurant scene was collectively urging diners to come out and show their support for the hospitality industry by patroniz-

ing local businesses. By the month’s second week, most businesses had gone to takeout and delivery operations only. Those who hadn’t made this move had the decision made for them on March 17, when leaders from St. Louis city, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Franklin County ordered all restaurants and bars closed for dine-in service. At press time, no timeline has been given for how long the restrictions on dine-in business will last. St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann struck an optimistic, tonedeaf, chord at the press conference announcing the declaration, saying that, while he understood the negative impact this would have on small businesses, he was confident they would figure it out. “We’re not closing businesses. We’re just changing the way they do business,” Ehlmann explained. “Personally, I have a lot of faith in our small business people, our restaurateurs and all the people impacted Continued on pg 14

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RECIPE FOR DISASTER Continued from pg 11

by this. They’re going to find a way to still provide the services that they provide and make the money that they need to make to pay their bills and pay their employees. I predict you’re going to see some very original thinking here. I know for sure people aren’t going to stop eating …” What Ehlmann’s Pollyanna-like optimism in the restaurant industry’s ability to problem solve its way out of this mess fails to get is that in the food business there is no time allowance for “original thinking” – what we are looking at is the distinct possibility that the St. Louis restaurant scene, like every restaurant scene around the world, will look vastly different when the threat from COVID-19 is over. Joel Crespo, who co-owns Guerrilla Street food with his business partner, Brian Hardesty, has a bleak picture of what that future might look like. “Your favorite places are going to be gone,” Crespo says. “Then they’ll be replaced by what? Big corporate places and chains and places with milliondollar investors? That’s what the landscape could look like when all of these great places go away. This is going to be earth shattering for a lot of people.” Crespo’s bleak assessment comes from the lack of substantive help the restaurant industry has so far received as it struggles to balance doing the right thing for public health and following government directives with basic survival. Though government officials have paid lip service to the pain that those in the hospitality industry are experiencing, there has been little in the way of actual assistance. At the time of this writing, the federal government had yet to pass legislation aimed at addressing the crisis and was still debating the best way to do so. Cash payments to households, an airline bailout and expansion of unemployment benefits have been discussed, but nothing has yet to go into effect, let alone get into the hands of those who need it. Crespo cannot help but feel frustrated with what he sees as inaction. “There are concrete things that can be done – Small Business Administration (SBA) loan relief, rent relief, expansion of unemployment – but there is no direction,” Crespo says. “We live in a world where people are two paychecks away from being homeless, and restaurants are the equivalent of that. We’re facing an existential crisis and things need to happen fast. We can’t wait for federal aid six months from now. We’re wondering if we’re going to have a restaurant in two weeks.” Crespo’s cries for help and guidance are echoed by two of the St.

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St. Louis restaurants transitioned to curb-side pickup after the coronavirus forced them to close their dining rooms. | TRENTON ALMGREN-DAVIS

“I want to say in my heart that I will fight to the death to save my restaurant – I have come so far and worked so hard for it.” Louis restaurant community’s most prominent voices: chef Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group and restaurateur Mark Hinkle of Olive + Oak and the Clover and the Bee. Both have been lobbying state and congressional officials to take immediate action that they believe could give restaurants and related businesses the lifeline they need to keep from going under during this business disruption. Craft’s efforts have included lobbying at the federal level to have all restaurant employees placed under the Family and Medical Leave Act umbrella to ensure that their jobs are protected, then give all of those employees paid leave. He has also asked for sales tax relief for those who remain open for takeout and delivery and SBA loan relief. Hinkle echoes these proposals and has also asked Missouri Governor Mike Parson to declare a disaster so that SBA disaster loans can be made available to the state’s small business community and to issue a temporary mora-

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Melanie Meyer had to shut down Tiny Chef completely. | ANDY PAULISSEN torium on eviction for non-payment of rent for residential tenants. On March 19, Parson took one of those steps, directing the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and the Missouri Department of Economic Development to seek assistance for small business through the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program. This will allow small business impacted by COVID-19 to take out loans up to $2 million at an interest rate of 3.75 percent. As of this writing, the program has yet to take effect. “We’re saying look, if you want to bail out airlines, fine, but restaurants are the economy these days,” Craft says. “The hospitality industry as a

whole – commercial developers look to restaurants because there is no more retail left, airlines are using us in in-flight magazines or they have menus by some great chef, and local restaurants are in airports now. Food and hospitality have become such a huge part of our economy, and we could quite easily lose 50 percent of Missouri restaurants in the next two months if you don’t do something. It could happen easily. You can only weather this for so long. For most, not at all.” Melanie Meyer is one of those restaurant owners who fear that her business might not weather the storm. Last April, she and her part-


Chefs David Sandusky, left, and Gerard Craft say restaurants will be destroyed without help. | KATIE COUNTS/JENNIFER SILVERBERG ner Chris Ward opened their small food counter, Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef, inside the Silver Ballroom. For Meyer, the restaurant is the realization of a dream that has quickly turned into a nightmare. “This is my baby. I’ve never done anything like this, and I’m trying to think about how I am going to survive this and bring it back when it’s over,” Meyer says. “I don’t want to lose this. I want to fight for it because this is all I’ve ever wanted.” Unlike many of her peers, Meyer is unable to offer takeout and delivery because of logistics. The Silver Ballroom is closed, and her restaurant is so small, it doesn’t even have a landline to take calls from people to place orders. Additionally, she says that, because COVID-19 originated in China, many have ignorantly avoided Asian restaurants. She has also experienced racism in the form of dirty looks and rude gestures – an uptick she says is due to the coronavirus. Though government intervention will not help the latter problems she’s experiencing, she feels that the only chance her business has to survive is government action that involves a cash infusion into people’s hands so they can pay bills, and an immediate halt to things like rent and utility payments. So far, she is not optimistic that the help she needs is on the way, and wonders how she will be able to recover. “Bouncing back means not starting from ground up but from six feet under and working your way up toward the ground,” Meyer says. “I’m hopeful that we will find a way, but literally there is no action being taken. The worst part is sitting in limbo. Am I going to be OK? Pay bills? Not have a home or have a restaurant? Staying in limbo until something is decided is the worst, because we are in fear right now. I want to say in my heart that I will fight to the death to save my restaurant – I have come so far and worked so hard for it.”

“Your favorite places are going to be gone. Then they’ll be replaced by what? Big corporate places and chains and places with milliondollar investors? That’s what the landscape could look like when all of these great places go away.” With the lack of government action to help the hospitality industry, the only lifelines on the immediate horizon are various online fundraising campaigns, ad-hoc drives organized by those in the industry, and support of the local community. These, coupled with the takeout operations some businesses are doing, might stave off disaster for now – but how long will they last? “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a flesh wound,” Crespo says. “We are doing everything we can possibly do, and it’s great that we have a wonderful restaurant community here in St. Louis. We need to support each other, but we’re not going to get through this by holding hands and singing

kumbaya. We need real help.” Sandusky echoes Crespo’s insistence on the industry’s need for help, citing the misconception that the restaurant business has the deep pockets to sustain such a blow. “The guys that are millionaires are one percent of restaurant owners – and good for them – but most of us didn’t get into it to be millionaires,” Sandusky explains. “Most got into it because we are good at what we do, have a passion for it and want to pass along our hospitality. The margins are ultra slim. If you are really good at what you do and own your building, maybe you make fifteen percent in profit, but most don’t own our own buildings. If we are renting and really good at budgeting, we are lucky to see ten percent hit the bottom line. That means for every $5,000, you are lucky to bring $500 to the bank – and that’s if you are really good. A lot live in the five, six, seven or eight percent margin.” As it waits for the government to act, Craft hints that the industry might see a lifeline in the form of large-scale philanthropic efforts by prominent patrons in the community. Though these have yet to be formalized, the point is to get help to businesses immediately so that they might serve as a bridge until the government acts. In these dark times, it – coupled with the outpouring of support from their customers – is the thing that gives small business owners like Craft, Crespo, Meyer and Saudusky hope. “Hopefully, the restaurant community won’t look that different at the end of this,” Craft says. “I’m only hopeful because of the awesome people I’ve come in touch with who are selflessly trying to keep this industry going. That’s what it’s going to take. We need all the help we can get – government, philanthropic, gift cards, whatever. If we can save the restaurants we all love, we will be in a better place.” n

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314.772.980 3153 MORGANFORD RD. ST LOUIS, MO 63116 Under new ownership, Three Monkeys has transformed into one of the best neighborhood restaurants & whiskey pubs in the area. With an ever-growing list of over 60 whiskeys, 16 craft beers on draft, specialty cocktail & an exciting new menu of gastro pub favorites - they have something for everyone. The menu is ample with offerings, including some of St. Louis’s best hand-tossed pizza, great shareable appetizers, burgers, vegetarian options, pasta, steaks & more. Embracing the price point of other south city pubs, Three Monkeys offers a great happy hour! Come enjoy $6 select appetizers, including the best fried Brussels sprouts in town, $5 Manhattans, Sazeracs & Old Fashions, as well as discounts on wine & craft beer. Sunday features one of the most extensive brunch buffets in the city, loaded with your favorite breakfast items, an omelet & pasta station, plus seafood, appetizers, desserts, & many other goodies. Located in Tower Grove South, it’s the perfect place to have dinner, share a pizza with family, or just belly up to the bar with your favorite drink.

The fast-fresh, made-to-order concept has been applied to everything from pizza to pasta in St. Louis, but the sushi burrito surprisingly had no Gateway City home until BLK MKT Eats opened near Saint Louis University last fall. It was worth the wait, though, because BLK MKT Eats combines bold flavors and convenience into a perfectly wrapped package that’s ideal for those in a rush. Cousins and co-owners Kati Fahrney and Ron Turigliatto offer a casual menu full of high-quality, all-natural ingredients that fit everything you love about sushiYOUR and burritos right inSUSHI your hand. TheNOT SwedishYOUR Fish layers Scandinavian cured salmon, yuzu dillSPOT slaw, NOT AVERAGE SPOT AVERAGE SUSHI Persian cucumbers and avocado for a fresh flavor explosion. Another favorite, the OG Fire, features your choice 9 SOUTH VANDEVENTER DINE-IN, TAKEOUT OR DELIVERY MON-SAT 11AM-9PM of spicy tuna or salmon alongside tempura crunch, masago, shallots, jalapeño and piquant namesake sauce; Persian cucumbers and avocado soothe your tongue from the sauce’s kick. All burrito rolls come with sticky rice wrapped in nori or can be made into poké bowls, and all items can be modified for vegetarians.

9 SOUTH VANDEVENTER DINE-IN, TAKEOUT OR DELIVERY MON-SAT 11AM-9PM

CRAWLING CRAB CRISPY EDGE

314.328.3421 6730 PAGE AVE ST. LOUIS, MO 63138

CRISPYEDGE.COM

Looking for the best seafood in St. Louis or the Midwest—don’t fret, Crawling Crab is now open! Here, we drizzle everything in garlic butter and then sprinkle on our magic dust! In a fun and casual atmosphere, you’ll enjoy fresh, hand-cleaned seafood ranging from lobster, shrimp, and of course crab legs. All platters come with corn sausage potatoes and Cajun boiled eggs and shrimp that won’t disappoint. For those pasta and veggie lovers out there, there is a spot for you here too! Enjoy our double dipped garlic butter rolls along side with your meal. And if you are still not stuffed, we have homemade dessert on the menu too! Have a big family coming in or an event coming up? Enjoy our family meal options and our beautiful seafood tables. As we continue to grow, we are excited to add new items to the menu, get creative with new recipes, and give back within the community. Join us on the first Tuesday of the month for $20 platter specials, and $5 appetizers on every Wild Wednesday! Open Tuesday thru Saturday 4pm-10pm, currently located in the 24:1 Coffee House Cafe.

314.310.3343 4168 JUNIATA STREET ST. LOUIS, MO 63116 What began in 2013 as a passion project in the founder’s kitchen has now grown into a retail and wholesale potsticker manufacturing facility located right in the heart of Tower Grove South. Crispy Edge believes that potstickers are the perfect vehicle to explore authentic global flavors from breakfast to dessert: handheld, wrapped in dough, and CRISPY! The restaurant features indoor and dog-friendly outdoor seating, private dining room, and a café lounge. The full bar and hot beverage program highlight local specialty coffee, cocktails, and beers. All products are made in-house and sourced from the finest ingredients. From Ordinary to Extraordinary - Crispy Edge is a global community for those who want something fun, tasty, social and exciting to eat.

CARNIVORE STL CARNIVORE-STL.COM

THE KICKIN’ CRAB

314.449.6328 5257 SHAW AVE, ST. LOUIS, MO 63110

THEKICKINCRAB.COM

Carnivore fills a nearly 4,000-square-foot space on The Hill with a dining area, bar lounge, and adjoining outdoor patio gracefully guarded by a bronze steer at the main entrance. Always embracing change, Joe and Kerri Smugala, with business partners Chef Mike and Casie Lutker, launched Carnivore STL this summer. As the Hill’s only steakhouse, Carnivore offers a homestyle menu at budget-friendly prices appealing to the neighborhood’s many families. Steak, of course, takes center stage with juicy filet mignon, top sirloin, strip steak and ribeye leading the menu. Customize any of the succulent meats with sautéed mushrooms, grilled shrimp, or melted housemade butters, such as garlic-and-herb and red wine reduction, on top of the flame-seared steak. Other main dishes include a thick-cut pork steak (smoked at J. Smugs) and the grilled chicken with capers and a white wine-lemon-butter sauce. St. Louis Italian traditions get their due in the Baked Ravioli, smothered in provel cheese and house ragu, and in the Arancini, risotto balls stuffed with provel and swimming in a pool of meat sauce. With an exciting new brunch menu debuting for Saturday and Sunday, Carnivore should be everyone’s new taste of the Hill.

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MARCH 25-31, 2020

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314.888.8688 9616 OLIVE BLVD OLIVETTE, MO 63132 The Kickin’ Crab has joined the Crustacean Nation and is here to satisfy your taste sensation. The Kickin’ Crab is a fun-filled Cajun seafood destination where patrons come and escape into flavor paradise. Offering a distinct ambiance to enjoy the finest and freshest Cajun seafood around! Kickin’ Crab is a great place to hang out with friends, family, or both! No plates... no utensils! Just your hands, a bib, and our unique and absolutely irresistible KC sauces - a combination of spicy, sweet and tangy flavors - over freshly prepared seafood that will give your taste buds satisfaction unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted. Join us and partake in the festivities and quality of seafood that The Kickin’ Crab has to offer.


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CULTURE Puzzle Warehouse Is Crushing It Written by

JENNA JONES

I

solation sucks. However, it is a necessary evil with COVID-19 sweeping across the world. One St. Louis company is making sure everyone is occupied during their time with family and roommates. Puzzle Warehouse (655 Leffingwell Ave., Kirkwood) is breaking records selling puzzles, games and toys. “It seems like every day business is accelerating,” marketing manager Greg Brown tells the RFT in an interview last week. “We broke yesterday’s record.” It all started on Thursday, March 12. “On Friday, they were impressive,” Brown says of their sales. “On Saturday, they were really good. And now, they’re ridicu-

Buy a T-Shirt, Help Local St. Louis Workers Written by

MONICA OBRADOVIC

W

e’ve all seen the headlines. “Coronavirus Cases Reach …,” “St. Louis-Area Businesses Struggle to ...,” “RFT Lays Off 7 as Coronavirus Slams …” In the face of all the doom and gloom, local fiction writer Kellie Lynch wanted to spread some positivity. They designed a T-shirt commemorating the city’s, for lack of a better word, shitty spring break. “I’ve been on social media a little too much lately. It’s just a constant stream of things falling apart,” Lynch says. “It makes me want to put a little optimism out there.” Money from the T-shirt sales will go toward gift cards from local businesses. Lynch will then give the gift cards away to local charities. Lynch isn’t the only one who had the

Puzzle Warehouse is seeing record-breaking sales since COVID-19 hit. | COURTESY PUZZLE WAREHOUSE lous. Ridiculous in a good way, though.” Online, the puzzle shop has been doing six or seven times the normal amount of business. The retail shop was also slammed through Sunday, but new “stay home” restrictions from St. Louis forced all businesses not deemed “essential” to close Monday, including the retail store. March had already exceeded typical holiday numbers, Brown says. idea of selling T-shirts to benefit the St. Louis community. Robin Marquand, the creator of Thrive Book, a passport-style coupon book meant to highlight plant-based food in St. Louis, launched a “STL Strong” shirt to support local restaurants. All profits made from Marquand’s shirts will go to a GoFundMe campaign started by Byrd & Barrel’s Bob Brazell. Money donated to the campaign will go toward hospitality workers who recently lost their jobs. Although, if anyone not in the hospitality industry needs money due to cut hours, they can email Marquand directly. As of this writing, the campaign has raised nearly $6,000 of a $10,000 goal. Marquand worked as a server for two years and says she understands “living paycheck to paycheck.” Her Thrive Book was supposed to launch later this year. But with everything going on, Marquand doesn’t know what’s going to happen. “Our whole mission is to stimulate the economy of restaurants,” Marquand says. “If we can’t do that by selling the book, then I wanted to do something else to help restaurants here and the people who work for them.” Lynch’s T-shirts sell for $20 each. The

Despite the gravity of the situation of a global pandemic, Brown says the mood of customers had remained overwhelmingly positive. “People are kind of joking, but I suppose that’s the nature of the product we’re selling,” Brown said. “We’re not selling necessities, we’re selling something to keep you entertained.” While a majority of the customers have remained upbeat, Brown

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said that there has been a couple of exceptions. Some of the online customers had called to have their board games brought to their car rather than going in as a precaution. A majority of the business is in the 10,000 plus puzzles they carry. The warehouse, which was still open at press time, also has board games and other toys to get its customers through the lock down. If you find yourself with an urge for a puzzle or two, don’t worry about stock running out anytime soon. The arrival of COVID-19 coincided with the new releases of board games. Shiny, brand new games await you at the Puzzle Warehouse. “We’re ahead of the curve,” Brown said. “We kind of foresaw this. We didn’t expect it to be this dramatic or this fast, but we tend to order this time of year rather large.” Customers have gotten emails about their orders experiencing a slight delay if they ordered online. The company has hired more than two dozen new people, including people laid off from other jobs, to get orders out as “fast as humanly possible.” n

Buy one of these shirts until March 31. | COURTESY KELLIE LYNCH shirts will be for sale until March 31 on Etsy. They’ve designed T-shirts as a side hustle in the past but usually only sold a couple to their friends. Like a lot of people (or what a lot of people should be doing) Lynch self-quarantined last week, but they used the extra time to design the shirt. “I was trying to think of ways to help the community, and the T-shirt idea just

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came to me,” Lynch says. “I could use the profits to put back into the St. Louis community.” It’s that togetherness, Marquand says, that inspired her “STL Strong” shirts. “I think it really demonstrates the strength we have as a community,” Marquand says. “We have something special here — we all genuinely care about each other.” n

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SAVAGE LOVE HOLING UP BY DAN SAVAGE Hey, Dan: My question is on managing “gray area” intimacies during the pandemic. I have a lover/friend that I’ve been hanging out with — fucking, drinking tea, going on hikes, eating ice cream, watching movies, and other activities — for about nine months. He’s 36 and was married for 10 years and due to that experience he’s been a bit emotionally “boundaried,” but he’s still really sweet and a good communicator. I’m in grad school doing a double master’s, so the small amount of time we’ve been spending together has worked well for me. Here’s the issue: He’s also an ER doctor. Do I keep seeing him during this pandemic? I just moved to the city where we both live for my grad program, and he’s my main source for connection, comfort, and support here. Every time I see him, we both feel tremendously less stressed and our connection feels emotionally healthy. I just know he’s bound to be at a huge risk for exposure, and since he’s not a committed partner and we don’t live together, I don’t know if he falls within or outside of my physical distancing boundary. It seems like the best thing to do from a logistical perspective is hole up with my cat and not see another soul in person until a vaccine is invented or something, but I don’t know when that will happen. Physical Distancing Do’s And Don’ts “This is really a matter of a personal risk/benefit calculation,” says Dr. Daniel Summers, a pediatrician who lives and works near Boston. “What PDDAD is willing to accept as a risk may be different from what someone else would.” And there’s definitely a health benefit to getting together — we are social animals, and isolation is bad for us — but your lover is at high risk of infection. And when front-line health care providers get infected, they tend to get sicker than the average person who gets infected, according to CNN, which is something else you need to factor into your risk/benefit calculation. Additionally, does your boyfriend’s workplace — I’m going to call him your boyfriend for clarity’s sake — have the protective gear he needs to minimize his risk of exposure? “We’re all doing our best to take as many preventive steps to lower our

risk of being exposed,” says Dr. Summers, “but there’s still a maddeningly unacceptable shortage of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves nationwide. I hope he has sufficient access to these things. But is there a risk he could get exposed to the virus at work? Definitely.” Dr. Summers lives with his husband and four children and in addition to the precautions he takes at work — where he may be seeing patients with coronavirus (he doesn’t know for sure because tests still aren’t available) — Dr. Summers strips down to his underwear on his front porch of his home when he gets home from work. His clothes go straight into the washing machine, he goes straight into the shower. “I’m still afraid of bringing it home,” says Dr. Summers. “But with four kids home from school, my husband’s sanity depends on my being present as much as I can. So for me, staying away isn’t an option. That’s not the case for PDDAD. She has to decide whether the undefinable risk of exposure isn’t worth it. Or, alternatively, she can decide the connection she has with him is important enough to her own well-being that the risk is worth it. But only she can make that decision for herself.” If you decide the risk of infection is too great — or if your boyfriend decides the risk of infecting you is too great — you can still be there for each other. You can Skype and Zoom, you can text and sext, you can leave groceries on his porch and wave to him from the sidewalk. But if you decide to keep connecting with each other in person, PDDAD, you should minimize the amount of time you spend moving through the city to get to each other’s places. And that means — emotional boundaries be damned — picking one of your apartments to hole up in together for the duration. You can follow Dr. Summers on Twitter @WFKARS and you can read him at Slate’s Outward. Hey, Dan: I’m pro- sex workers and believe adults should do whatever they consent to, but I’m curious if that applies during the current pandemic. I know of a sex worker who’s still offering himself to clients, who are apparently still hiring him. (He regularly posts of his exploits on certain social media sites.) Should the authorities be made aware of this? Just Concerned

If the authorities want to start rounding up reckless idiots who are endangering others, JC, the beaches of Florida might be a good place to start. Or the Oval Office. And if your first impulse is to involve the authorities, then you aren’t “pro- sex workers,” JC, because the authorities — particularly the police — are a danger to sex workers. Instead of calling the cops, reach out to this guy on those social media sites and encourage him to see his clients virtually, i.e., instead of face-to-face (or face-to-whatever) meetings, he should go full camwhore for the time being. So if you want to want to help, JC, and not just police or shame, you should hire this guy to do an online session. (And everyone should bear in mind that sex workers are suffering right now, too, because most are being responsible and not seeing clients. Their incomes have plummeted to zero, and they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits.)

Hey, Dan: I’m a queer poly woman and I have a two-part question about sexting/Skype sex. I didn’t used to think twice about shooting off a nude or a nasty text in my twenties, and I’ve never have qualms about casual relations. But for me there has always needed to be a baseline of friendship. After getting burned a bunch of times — especially by straight men (queers and other genders are generally way kinder) — I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. Fast forward a few years and, after doing a lot of work, I started feeling myself again. I started talking with a man that I’d met through mutual friends and flirted with a little in the past. I was upfront with him and told him I would be down to get dirty again sometime but needed to build up some form of friendship first. He enthusiastically agreed and started talking to me about this and that every other day or so. We were talking about meeting up in person when the coronavirus lockdown happened, and now my libido has shot through the roof. We ended up exchanging photos and got off on FaceTime together. After that, crickets. I would send an innocuous question and get a two-word response. I feel really disrespected and used, but at the same time I can see how he doesn’t owe me anything. I was in a similar situation like this before where a man told me that, no matter what, he wanted our friendship to be a priority and then ghosted me immediately after we slept together. My questions: What can I do

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in the future to avoid this sort of situation? And, while we’re all in lockdown, do you have any advice on how to be hot over video when you’re generally a clumsy spaz? Female Resents Insincere Efforts Necessitating Deceit Unfortunately, FRIEND, there’s no surefire way to prevent people from lying to you about being friends in order to get into your pants — virtually or eventually — or to prevent them from changing their minds about being friends once they’ve gotten into your pants. (The former is more likely, but the latter does happen.) Your only options are relying on your bullshit detectors to weed out people you think might be playing you and getting better at shrugging off, blocking and forgetting the dishonest people who manage to get past your bullshit detectors. As for tips about being hot on Zoom or FaceTime or Fox Nation or whatever, I’m afraid I can’t help you there, FRIEND, as I am the clumsiest spaz that ever spazzed. I hate having my photo taken, and if a room is dark enough for me to feel comfortable getting naked in it, it’s usually too dark for someone else to see me — whether they’re in the same room with me or sitting in front of a computer on the other side of the world. But someone who’s more at ease in front of the camera (and with whom I’m currently quarantined) tells me that slightly dimmed lighting is better than harsh lighting, leaving something on is hotter than taking it all off, and — if you want to maintain your anonymity — keeping your face and any identifying tattoos out of the shot is a good idea.

Check out the Lovecast at savagelovecast.com. Questions? mail@savagelove.net. Follow Dan on Twitter @fakedansavage Want to reach someone at the RFT? If you’re looking to provide info about an event, please contact calendar@riverfronttimes.com. If you’ve got the scoop on nightlife, comedy or music, please email daniel.hill@riverfronttimes.com. Love us? Hate us? You can email doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com about that too. Due to the volume of email we receive, we may not respond — but rest assured that we are reading every one.

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