Shmeers will not be kosher

BY VICTORIA SIEGEL, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

At midnight on Dec. 31, the St. Louis area will have one less kosher restaurant.

“I am voluntarily giving up my kosher certification,” said Gershon Schwadron, owner of Shmeers. “Economically, the restaurant isn’t making it.”

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Schwadron says, according to his informal estmate, there are only 400 Shomer Kasruth families in the area and that only 18 percent of those families ate at his restaurant on a regular basis. He had asked the Orthodox community for help in terms of sending customers to the restaurant in order to keep the restaurant supervised.

However, without any support in terms of increased traffic, Schwadron said he had to make a business decision. “At this point in my life, I had to make a change.”

With the changing of Shmeers, Jews who eat only kosher food will have even fewer choices when dining out — Kohn’s Kosher Meat and Deli, Diamants Kosher Meat Market and Delicatessen and J Caf é.

“The community is now left without a kosher restaurant,” Rabbi Zvi Zuravin of the Vaad Hoeir, said, “except for the J Caf é and Kohn’s.”

The Vaad is the official organization that oversees kosher supervision for the St. Louis Jewish community.

Zuravin agreed that if people want to have a kosher restaurant, they need to support it.

The change for Shmeers means going from a dairy, vegetarian kosher restaurant to serving meat, pizza, and a more varied menu. The meat served will have various kosher supervisions, some of which the Orthodox community will not accept, Schwadron said.

Schwadron, however, said he will not cook meat and cheese together.

Beginning Jan. 1, Shmeers, which is known for its signature line printed on the bottom of its receipts “Was anything okay?” will be open seven days a week, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and will eventually be a sports-themed restaurant and bar featuring flat-screens televisions and live sports broadcasts. Bernie Miklasz will do two live shows a month for his ESPN radio show.

As a Shomer Shabbat Orthodox Jew, Schwadron said he is proud of being the first Orthodox Jew to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and was even personal chef to the Crown Prince of Thailand.

He believes that if the Orthodox community had come out and been customers he would have been able to sustain the Vaad Hoeir certification. With this change to Shmeers, Schwadron said he is just trying to compete in the marketplace.

“I’m going to open it up to the rest of the world,” he said. “But I appreciate the support I’ve received…I just need to make a change.”

Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt of Agudas Israel in University City said he was “disappointed that the restaurant did not work out. It’s unfortunate for the kosher community.”