Despite the suggestive name, the promise of pole-dancing and a flier depicting a woman pulling down her bikini bottom, Parks maintained that the new venture was not a strip club because the dancers would wear "swimsuit attire or other attractive clothing."

The new club was located across the street from a church and near a cluster of residential homes. Several citizens complained, and the club, which opened November 12, was forced to close eight days later when the city council voted unanimously to deny Blackmon's application for a business license.

"A lot of things coalesced into the timing of that [press] conference," says St. Clair County prosecutor Robert Haida. "Several citizens groups approached us and asked us to do something. We had been aware of the problem for a long time, and concerns had been expressed through official channels. We were asked to increase our efforts and make it a more public issue."

Johnnie Blackmon did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.


East St. Louis is in dire fiscal straits. Facing a $2 million budget deficit, the city plans to cut seventeen positions, including five police officers and five firefighters.

In an embarrassing but illustrative example of the depth of the crisis, the police department's drug-sniffing dog was nearly repossessed last month by a breeder who said the city failed to pay him the $5,000 he was owed for the canine, which changed hands on February 1.

At the town-hall meeting, Parks pointed out that forcing establishments to close early would have a significant impact on the city's strained coffers. Cedric Taylor, who also owns Javon's Fine Dining, an east-side restaurant and bar, came prepared with figures to back the mayor's claim.

"We paid this year over $150,000 to the state of Illinois and more than $100,000 to East St. Louis in revenue from sales taxes," Taylor told the crowd. "These are the things you have to look at."

According to statistics kept by the Illinois Department of Revenue, sales taxes from "Eating and Drinking Places" in East St. Louis generated more than $1.3 million in 2008. The funds were divided among the state, county and city.

Beyond the clubs' direct contributions, others point to a trickle-down effect on the city's economy. Parks argues that the late-night visitors help keep other local businesses afloat. Taylor points out that he employs fifteen people at Club Casino, almost all of whom live and spend money in East St. Louis.

"There are a lot of people that work in these clubs. Right now, with the economy the way it is, you going to take jobs away from people?" seconds Club Casino's DJ C-Note. "I need that money at the club. I got a mortgage. I got kids to feed."

Willie "Bay-D" Spratt is a promoter who heads a group of East St. Louis entertainment businesses, primarily record labels, collectively known as the Coalition. Spratt believes that closing at the same time as St. Louis' bars would almost certainly put East St. Louis' nightclubs out of business, given that the vast majority of customers arrive after 1:30 a.m.

"Towns die because of things like this," he says. "Look at Wellston — they used to be a hotbed for entertainment. If [the clubs] close, East St. Louis doesn't have anything going beyond that. It's a run-down city already. Imagine what it will be like without this revenue."

Further complicating matters is the Casino Queen. Taxes collected from the riverboat gambling facility account for roughly 40 percent of East St. Louis' annual operating budget. Because the Casino Queen has the same type of liquor license as the nightclubs', it would be subject to any mandated change in hours. With business at the casino down 20 percent in 2009, many city leaders are wary of inflicting further damage.

"We surely don't want to cut off our nose to spite our face," says Delbert Marion, an East St. Louis council member. "If [the nightclubs] are generating the type of revenue that can offset the losses of the Casino Queen, then we'll take that into consideration. But then again, do we want to take the risk of having people under the influence of alcohol and drugs pouring into the city, where the police department is already strained?"

Hard-line nightclub opponents insist that any arguments about the clubs' financial contributions to the city are moot.

"The highest priority is saving lives, not whether a bar would go out of business," county prosecutor Haida says. "That's an easy call. If it's revenue versus saving lives, I'll take saving lives every time."


Ask anyone who has ever frequented or worked at an East St. Louis club if the establishments are behind the city's crime woes, and you're likely in for a resounding "no."

"With clubs and anything else, you have to look at things deeper than that," says DJ AJ, of radio station KATZ the Beat (100.3 FM). "Education, schooling, upbringing — that's where it falls. I can't say a nightclub is the cause of people getting killed and murdered. I don't want to hear that as an excuse.

"Violence happens away from the nightclub when people follow each other outside, so the easy logic is that if the club wasn't open, those people wouldn't have been there in the first place," he continues. "But at the end of the day, people who do wrong — whether in the club or in the mall or whatever — they going to do whatever they going to do. Using the club as an excuse is valid to a point, but it's not everything. Not even close."

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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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