Downtown Saint Louis Restaurants: Coming or Going?
With the recent closure of a number of downtown establishments (the most recent being Mike Shannon’s), local media are considering Saint Louis’s restaurant scene, especially in the city’s central business district (CBD). Some local politicians and restaurateurs are pointing the finger at Ballpark Village, accusing it of taking business and putting the nail in the coffin of local bars and restaurants. The Post-Dispatch interviewed other restaurateurs who took a more circumspect tone, claiming restaurant industry growth is strong and blaming closures on changing tastes. But what do the data show?
In terms of the current state of restaurants downtown, it is hard to get enough information to move beyond anecdote. But if we analyze the latest census data for three zip codes containing downtown and west downtown (63101, 63102, and 63103), we can glean some knowledge about the state of downtown dining in the recent past and its trend over time. The data show that from 2000 to 2013, total full-service restaurants in the three zip codes above increased by 21 establishments (a 34% improvement). The added restaurants employed more people, too. In 2000, only 29 restaurants had more than 20 employees. By 2013, 52 did. So there were not only more restaurants, but they were larger.
Unfortunately, it was not all good news. The vast majority of restaurant additions were in the 63103 zip code, which not only contains West Downtown, but also much of Midtown, the SLU Campus, and Grand Center. If we just look at the heart of downtown and the area around Busch Stadium (63101 and 63102) there were barely any more full service restaurants in 2013 than there were in 2000:
Taking a look at the city as a whole, the zip codes containing just the downtown neighborhood performed poorly when compared to other parts of the central corridor as well as areas in the South Saint Louis City. Some areas of the city lost restaurants during the same period, but this only took place in depressed areas of North City.
Looking at everything together, it seems clear that the city as a whole added restaurants from 2000 to 2013, but progress was spotty. Some areas were contracting, others were expanding, and still others were treading water. The situation may have changed in 2014 and 2015, but we will leave that to future analysis. Just looking at the latest available census data, the downtown neighborhood was in the treading-water category.