Last Call?: East St. Louis nightclubs under siege

It's three thirty on a humid Saturday morning. Last call in St. Louis was 45 minutes ago, and now Club Casino's getting wild. A party-hungry swarm has completed its migration across the Mississippi River, drawn like moths to the neon-orange glow of the nightclub's marquee. Here, just off Interstate 255 on State Street in the heart of East St. Louis, they'll dance till dawn.

Under a moon-size disco ball, the floor is a sea of bobbing dreadlocks and flat-brimmed ball caps. A syrup-slow bass line thumps over the speakers, the beat sped up by synthesizers and a jittery hi-hat. A woman in a tiny pink dress grabs her ankles while her partner steps up behind her and grinds. Others do a knee-swinging version of the twist, adding a sly two-step that looks like walking in place with swagger.

The air-conditioning has been off since an electrical transformer in the parking lot blew just after midnight. It's sticky and sweaty, and a haze of menthol and blunt smoke adds weight to the air. Enclosed in a tinted glass booth, Derrty DJ C-Note spins minute-long song snippets, fittingly referred to as "club bangers," prompting mass sing-alongs to choruses like "Donk dat booty," "Do da booty do" and "Ride dat pussy."

"Call yo' people, tell 'em we still open!" C-Note shouts. "We gon' keep it poppin'! Text yo' people and tell 'em it is on!"

Seated on a stool beneath the fluorescent lights at the club's entrance, holding a fistful of $10 admission cash, Cedric Taylor, Club Casino's owner, imparts that attendance on this night is about 280 — less than half of what the club averaged three months ago in the dead of winter.

That was before the trouble started.

On March 19, leaders from across the metro east gathered at a press conference and demanded that East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks, who also serves as the city's liquor commissioner, make the nightclubs in his jurisdiction close earlier. Several establishments remain open until 6 a.m., and law-enforcement officials say patrons, primed by a night on the town in neighboring St. Louis, arrive in East St. Louis in the wee hours and wreak havoc.

A week after the press conference, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Parks' office in city hall, carting off documents pertaining to what the mayor has delicately characterized as an investigation of "unlawful solicitation of money regarding liquor licenses."

Responding to mounting public concern, Parks called an "emergency town-hall meeting" on April 4 to discuss the situation. There he distributed a survey that asked respondents to circle the time they would prefer local nightspots to stop serving liquor. The options were 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.

"After that a lot of people thought we were closing at two," Cedric Taylor says. "We had people cruising by at 3:30 who would stop in and say, 'I thought you guys were supposed to be closed.' We did an ad on the radio — $2,000 just to say, 'Hey, we're still open.'"

Parks decided late last month not to curtail the 6 a.m. closing time, but the controversy is far from resolved. The FBI investigation looms over the mayor's head, and his political rivals have pounced on the galvanizing issue.

Taylor, who maintains he's merely an upstanding citizen trying to provide a safe place to party, says his livelihood hangs in the balance.

"Don't penalize me because there are some idiots out there who don't run their club like a business," the club owner gripes. "It's these little, I call them holes in the wall, that have about 50 people in them and have an incident every week. We have 500 people and never have any problems. It reflects poorly on the city, and it's upsetting to get lumped in with a problem that we're not a part of."


East St. Louis nightlife has long been the stuff of legend. Thanks to Chuck Berry, the local juke joints were among the first in the world to feature rock & roll. Ike met the future Tina Turner in a downtown bar called Club Manhattan. And before Miles Davis became a jazz icon, he was tooting his horn here, in the city nicknamed "East Boogie."

Today, according to Mayor Parks, 70 East St. Louis establishments are licensed to sell liquor. Of those, 8 are classified as nightclubs and remain open until 6 a.m. The 2 most popular venues, Club Casino and Blackmon's Plaza, have been around for decades.

Cedric Taylor has owned and operated Club Casino for 21 years. When it opened, the place was called Club 24/7 and was a popular stop for touring funk and R&B groups. These days it hosts after-parties for national hip-hop artists who perform across the river in St. Louis. In the past year, the club has hosted events for rappers Jim Jones, Soulja Boy, Yo Gotti and St. Louis' own Nelly, to name just a few.

"We went from the Temptations to Gucci Mane," Taylor says, conceding he's more of a Marvin Gaye sort of guy.

For as long as the city has been known as a place to party till dawn, it has battled an equally gaudy reputation for crime, violence and corruption.

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8 comments
Jduchart55
Jduchart55

They racial profile over there like crazy. Every city in the u.s has clubs that stay open late. And every city has crime. You cant blame the crime in the city on the clubs. Crime is going to be there regardless. You have to have better security. They profiling people driving around and getting them on small time crimes. They dont focus on the big crimes or the real problems going on over there.

Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean

"Officer proposes setting a last call of 11 p.m. for all places that sell liquor in East St. Louis. Business owners who want to continue serving would pay a fee for each additional hour they remain open. The licenses could be priced on a sliding scale based on square footage and gross revenue."

Mr. officer do u know what's is the biggest problem in this city.

1). 95% of cars have no insurance nor a valid license plate nor a driver license, and a "BLUNT". 2). People ( young thugs ) are used to getting away with crimes easily here than anywhere else.3). City treats mom and pops store like shit. Only clubs and casino are high priority. 4). City need to create it's own towing yard. City will make more money in 3 days (club nights) than making money of liq. license fees.5). Fire that old moron from Public work job, He uses city equipment to clean (snow plowing) club parking lots.6). Start pulling over more people than what ever you are doing now. oops! i forgot everyone knows everyone. It's like a mobster family thing. 7). Start shooting more thugs, and send message.8). Try to drive by late night and see what a hell hole club brings.9). Pass new law that require more $$$$$$ for club liquor license.10). #10 is to violent to write here.11). IRS AND ATF need to "poke" these businesses more than hardworking people. 12). Streetlights are like from "IRON-AGE", criminals like to lurk in this city because it's to dark. Those street lights are like "Candle".13). Damn police station is to too far far away like fairytale. 14). City is too big to be handle by this police force.15). Nobody from out side wants to do business is here because "TIF", and because of that TAXES are like New york city. NO MORE TIF BECAUSE ONLY ARABS USE CITY MONEY OR SHOULD I SAY CITIZEN'S MONEY TO BUILD THEIR FORTUNE.16). $50,000 HOUSE PAYS TAXES EQUIVALENT TO $200,000 HOUSE IN FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS.17). EAST SAINT LOUIS NEED MORE THAN A LIQUOR STORE OR A CHURCH AT EVERY BLOCK. SO STOP GIVING AWAY THOSE LICENSES LIKE BANANA.18). CITY NEED NO BOOZE ON SUNDAY ALL DAY LAW!, THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE SOBER FOR A DAY TO REALIZE WHAT SHIT HOLE LIFE THEY LIVE IN.19). CLUBS NEED TO RELOCATE TO NON-RESIDENCE AREA THAN THEY CAN PARTY ALL NIGHT AND ALL DAY WITHOUT DISTURBING CITY.20). LEARN FROM WHITE NEIGHBORHOOD, YOU THINK SAINT LOUIS JUNK WILL GO TO FAIRVIEW OR BELLEVILLE..NO WHY NOT BECAUSE THEY CAN'T DO SHIT THAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING IN "EAST BOOGIE" OR SAUGET OR CAHOKIA OR CHARLY'S PARK.

mr.honesthardworkingman
mr.honesthardworkingman

"The obvious solution is that St.Louis should allow clubs to remain open until 6am. Why should all that revenue they talk about in ESTL be allowed to escape MO?"

YOU ARE RIGHT, MISSOURI SHOULD DO THAT. I WOULD BE THE HAPPIEST MAN ON FACE OF THE EARTH. EAST SAINT LOUIS CLUB WOULD BE OUT OF BUSINESS IF THAT CROWD DOESN'T CROSS THAT BRIDGE. NOBODY FROM EAST SAINT LOUIS WANTS TO GO TO THEIR CITY CLUBS ANYWAY. ONLY THING THIS CITY GOT IS THOSE ARAB WHO ARE BUILDING THEIR PALACES WITH "TIF" MONEY.

mr.honesthardworkingman
mr.honesthardworkingman

Wow, east saint louis has no shame. Mr.club casino said he gave to much back to community, i call that spare change. He makes $100k/night. He pays way way to low property taxes than a "homeless man". Mr. mayor said everyone deserve a chance to run business responsibly, like staying open 'till 6am is responsible. Only "DEVIL" and "CRIMINALS" stay out that late. Mr. mayor you need to move near a club and try to get some sleep on weekend. Most of hard working people work hard all week along to get a good rest on weekend, but thanks to clubs and crime in this city that would be impossible. This city will never see its potential with the way its doing business. IT will BE GHETTO FOR EVER. WAKE UP PEOPLE AND TAKE BACK YOUR CITY.

Kevin A.
Kevin A.

East St. Louis' problems don't stem from clubbing...just like it doesn't stem from old people dumping their social security checks into slot machines throughout the night and well into the morning.The problem is a corrupt local government...crack cocaine...meth amphetamines and the like..Forget the weed, that keeps people calm and cool. The place is a dump....and the cops suck at their job....The east side of the river is a $hit hole...it's been a shit hole since the great migration...I know that comment makes a lot of people mad...sometimes the truth hurts...

wiki
wiki

Haida and Justus are close friends with the crowd who have been buying up land on the East Side right where the new bridge is going to land when it's built. They're probably also invested in it. That's what is prompting all of this. It's not about cleaning up East St. Louis. It's about killing off the competition in East St. Louis

Neither of them cares who gets murdered, because if they did, there would have been competent investigations into,, and prosecutions of, many previous murders that have taken place either in the unincorporated county or in incidents that crossed city lines. Once, repeated calls to the Sr. Clair sheriff's department failed to get a guy picked up who was driving around with a body in the trunk of his car for several days. Since they have one of the worst dispatch systems known to mankind they may not have even know about the first few calls. Finally he crossed into Madison County, where he was arrested immediately. Remember McAllister? Anyone?

As far as the state goes, they ought to be looking into this, not closing the East St. Louis bars earlier.

timbuc4
timbuc4

Why play games

We want people to be safe without losing liberties

but life isnt exactly that perfect as it is being played out

so if the government is doing their job right, and keeping money spent to the bare minimums and busting people INSIDE CITY HALL THAT would gain RESPECT FROM THE CITIZENS

NOT THE CITIZENS who will break the law no matter what but the good people

and in turn they will back you up when you enforce commonsense laws

public drinking/drunkness zero tolerance

keeping criminals in jail whether those jails are buildings or tents KEEPING CRIMINALS IN JAIL WILL SEND THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE

We care enough ABOUT THE GOOD PEOPLE THAT WE WILL DO OUR JOB AND PROTECT YOU

And bad guys and girls your time for trouble on the streets is over

you will go to jail and stay in jail

then everything else will work itself out

people that want to dance to 6 am will do so people that want to enjoy freedom will do so

ALL OTHERS GO TO JAIL

QUIT PLAYING AROUND

Tim
Tim

The obvious solution is that St.Louis should allow clubs to remain open until 6am. Why should all that revenue they talk about in ESTL be allowed to escape MO?

 
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