By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
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By Allison Babka
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By Ray Downs
If you missed opening night at the Creepy Crawl's new Grand Center digs on St. Patrick's Day, you're not alone.
The club didn't open.
"We got a late start on things, but we're going to try to speed things up," says owner Jeff Parks. "We're going to keep doing shows [at the old location], and then hopefully we'll have a soft opening by the end of this month and hard opening a little later probably in conjunction with a Grand Center event."
Parks and his punk-rock entourage stumbled over a series of bureaucratic hurdles in their race to open at the new location they leased on Washington Avenue just east of Grand Boulevard. And a race it was: Parks intended to shutter the Creepy Crawl's downtown location on Tucker Boulevard after Monday, March 13, and christen the new Creepy that Friday.
Parks says arranging for the required building inspections and insurance took longer than anticipated. But the real sticking point is a full liquor license for the new nightclub a red tape-intensive ordeal complicated by the fact that some businesses in his new neighborhood aren't in a welcoming mood.
"We're not interested in having that in our neighborhood," says Chris Nuelle, owner of Nuelle Auto Service a few doors east on Washington. "We're trying to get rid of that type of clientele around here. We want to clean this place up."
Since its opening in 1998, the Creepy Crawl has achieved the status as St. Louis' flagship venue for punk, hardcore and death-metal performances. The all-ages club's rough-and-tumble environs have also been spruced up to host more mainstream acts on occasion, including the White Stripes and local faves Story of the Year.
The Creepy's new landlord is Grand Center Inc., a nonprofit group headed by former mayor Vincent Schoemehl that is responsible for redeveloping the Grand Center arts district. Straddling roughly a square mile of midtown St. Louis, Grand Center is home to Powell Symphony Hall, the Fox Theatre and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.
Which makes the Creepy Crawl the new kid on the block in more ways than one; the club stands to be Grand Center's only nightclub besides the Bistro, which caters to a decidedly more sedate and well-heeled clientele. Supporters hope Parks and co. will bring badly needed foot traffic to the district, which on many evenings can resemble a vast, abandoned parking lot.
"It adds that all-important twentysomething crowd that any arts and entertainment district needs, in addition to everything else, to be successful," says Grand Center Inc. spokesman Terry Edelmann. "We visited the club and talked to people down there. We think it's a very good operation."
Such boosterism irks Nuelle and others. Business owner Marcia Goldberg says she learned the Creepy Crawl was moving in next door when she received a letter in the mail.
"I have not been informed by anyone from Grand Center about this," complains Goldberg, co-owner of MMB Music. "I found out about it when I received a letter asking me to sign a petition that would authorize the club's liquor license.
"In the past, new business owners have come around and introduced themselves. We get to know who they are and what they're about before we're asked to sign a petition," Goldberg goes on. "But Parks didn't seem to have any thought of introducing himself. I'm right next door! One would think you'd make contact with the closest people first."
It's not just Parks' manners that have drawn the ire of Reverend Warren Hoffman and the folks at Third Baptist Church, located at Grand and Washington. For them it comes down to morality.
"There are multiple concerns," says church spokesman Tom Kurtz. "I think it will cause a security concern in the district. It's near the boundaries of the security patrol, so if people park outside the district and have problems it becomes the Cultural Improvement District's problem. The other is the potential for trash. From a moral standpoint, having minors and adults in a club with loud and in most older people's opinion objectionable music and lyrics would be an issue that the church would address directly."
St. Louis Excise Commissioner Bob Kraiberg says city law requires Parks to garner signatures from a majority of property owners within 350 feet of his club in support of his application for a liquor license. Similarly, says Kraiberg, the Creepy needs a petition indicating that a majority of registered voters and business owners within 350 feet of the establishment are onboard. Once verified, the petitions will be presented at a public hearing.
"If they don't get the signatures, then they don't get the license," says Kraiberg, who adds that he suspended the Creepy Crawl's liquor license for three days in June 2000 for serving liquor to minors. "That would sink the ship."
Parks is confident the Creepy will prevail. "I think we've got the signatures we need," he reports. Parks says that while the Creepy Crawl's Tucker location had a liquor license that permitted the bar to remain open until 3 a.m., he plans to open on Washington with a "regular" 1:30 a.m. license. "The 3 a.m. may take longer, but I'm pretty sure we're going to get that as well," he says.