ST. LOUIS – Chef Rob Connoley is a James Beard Awards finalist. His restaurant, Bulrush in Midtown, has been rated as the number one dining establishment in St. Louis. But now, fans are disappointed to read that he plans on leaving Missouri over what he considers anti-LGBTQ+ state politics.

Bulrush gained notoriety for creations inspired by traditional Ozark cuisine. Connoley had even been invited by the Missouri Department of Tourism to London to promote Missouri dining. 

“That was a really great event,” he said.

That was also when Connoley began thinking about moving his business out of Missouri. He believes Missouri lawmakers have targeted the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve really struggled with how a business operates in a state that is leaning away from being conservative to being radical,” he said.

Connoley considers efforts by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey to gain medical records related to transgender care alarming.

“Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation politics is now affecting our economy as a state,” Robert Fischer, communications director for PROMO, an agency advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, said.

He said residents, medical care providers, and business owners have left the state over efforts to pass laws considered harmful to the LGBTQ+ community.

Fischer could not quantify the economic impact that’s been felt in Missouri but added that research indicates states with greater LGBTQ+ representation have seen greater economic growth

Connoley said he loved his time in St. Louis, and understands if anyone feels he’s running away from a problem. He insists he’s been advocating for years and feels moving away could help create change.

“I thought, let’s go out on top,” Connoley said. “Let’s make a statement and hope that the state can rewrite its course.”