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"It's had a wild nightlife since it was founded shortly after the Civil War," says Andrew Theising, a political-science professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and author of Made in USA: East St. Louis, The Rise and Fall of an Industrial River Town. "And they've had federal investigations into their handling of liquor licenses three times dating back to 1918. It has always been a haven for crime, sex and drugs. It's always been there, and it's still there today."

In short, while dancing till sunrise and beyond is the norm in famous clubbing cities like Barcelona, New York and Las Vegas, outsiders' views of the festivities in East St. Louis are a different story. To many it will forever be the place where a goofy honky from Chicago named Clark Griswold gets his hubcaps stolen in the movie Vacation.

Caricatures may depict a machine-gun-toting thug on every corner, but the sad reality is that the city is mostly desolate. Virtually every block is dotted with boarded-up or burned-out buildings. Of about 31,000 residents, 98 percent are African American and 24 percent are unemployed. There were 19 homicides in East St. Louis in 2008 and 31 the previous year. In the eyes of several local officials, the bloodshed and raucous nightlife are inseparable.

"Let's face it, if those places were to close at 1:30 a.m. like everybody else does, East St. Louis would probably get rid of half their crime," contends St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus. "I been sheriff for 27 years. The nightclubs have been a problem since day one. In the summertime, when it's warm, my people have been down there, and there are literally hundreds of people swarming around on Collinsville Avenue, drinkin' and druggin' and everything else going down there."

"Our judgment, law enforcement's judgment, is many of the city's problems are caused by nightclubs being allowed to stay open," echoes Robert Haida, St. Clair County Prosecuting Attorney. "You get people who are already intoxicated, and they're armed, and they get into trouble on the east side. We know we can save lives by closing the clubs."

Justus and Haida made their views public at the March 19 press conference. They were joined by U.S. Attorney A. Courtney Cox, Illinois State Patrol Captain Mark Bramlett, U.S. Marshal Don Slaznik, East St. Louis NAACP president Johnny Scott, three members of the East St. Louis City Council and a handful of local clergymen.

Conspicuously absent was Mayor Parks. He says he was never notified.

The next day many reports about the gathering focused on a single statistic: The Illinois State Patrol stated that fifteen homicides over the past five years "came directly out of East St. Louis nightclubs."

Bramlett concedes the figure is inaccurate: Two of the murders were actually associated with clubs in nearby Washington Park and Venice, and one came from a report that vaguely cited "an undetermined East St. Louis nightclub."

Nevertheless, Bramlett says, his agency responds to enough nightclub-related shootings to validate the claim that the bars add to the body count. Beyond the murders, he notes, there were "five separate cases of weapons fired into vehicles as patrons are leaving the club and on their way back to St. Louis, and four cases where individuals were shot as a result of an issue in one of the clubs."

The last month of 2008 was a particularly violent one. On December 29 a security guard at the Broadway East nightclub was wounded in the thigh after trying to break up a fight in the parking lot at 4:45 a.m. The shooters sped across the Eads Bridge into St. Louis in a red Lincoln Navigator. Three days earlier a shooting inside the VIP Lounge at Blackmon's Plaza had sent more than 300 people fleeing into the street. And on December 7, a woman walking to her car alone after leaving Club Etta on State Street was hit in the back by a stray bullet at 3:45 a.m.

(Nightclubs west of the Mississippi River have not been immune, however. At about 2:30 a.m. on Friday, May 8, three men were gunned down after leaving a concert by rapper Yo Gotti at Club Society, near Union Station in downtown St. Louis.)

Bramlett also cites an episode from January when two cars leaving East St. Louis at 3:30 a.m. exchanged fire on the Poplar Street Bridge, killing a 23-year-old woman.

"If these places close down at the same time St. Louis does, then we don't have those types of incidents," the state patrol captain argues. "It's that simple."


On March 26 the FBI raided Alvin Parks' office and several others inside East St. Louis City Hall. Parks says about eighteen boxes of files were carted away, records dating as far back as 2003 that deal with "what's taking place with the liquor-selling operations, what's happening with how we handle liquor licenses here, liquor penalties and other aspects related to liquor."

A spokesman from the FBI's Springfield, Illinois, office declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The search has yet to produce an arrest or indictment, but Parks' deputy liquor commissioner, Walter Hill, was placed on administrative leave shortly afterward. On April 19 the city council voted to eliminate Hill's position as part of a citywide spate of job cuts.

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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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