"There was nothing racial about it," says Bob Kraiberg. "If you have a Lawrence Welk concert, the blue-haired old ladies aren't gonna be beating each other over the head with their walkers. If you play Grateful Dead music, you're gonna get a certain crowd. If you play gangster rap, you're going to get a certain crowd.

"If the Hells Angels were out there fighting each other, don't you think the neighborhood would react to that, too?"

On July 28, ten days after the triple shooting near Sugar Lounge, the excise division formally cited Lure — and only Lure — for a host of offenses. Among them: allowing fights, gunshots, loitering, littering, and lewd and indecent conduct. The Trupianos say they found out about the charges from a TV reporter.

Attorney John Bouhasin, a family friend of the Trupianos, is now representing them in their fight to stay in business.
Jennifer Silverberg
Attorney John Bouhasin, a family friend of the Trupianos, is now representing them in their fight to stay in business.

Curiously, the very same day, Kraiberg's office had egg on its face. The U.S. Attorney's Office indicted former excise division employee Jim Morgan for trying to shake down an unnamed bar owner.

That bar owner just happened to be one of the Trupiano brothers.

According to the feds, Morgan approached the Trupianos with a deal: If they made him manager of their new bar in Soulard for a $60,000 salary and threw in $10,000 for a new car, he'd expedite their liquor license application and prevent future investigations.

Morgan's mistake, according to Bosley, was floating this idea within earshot of an off-duty police officer working for the Trupianos. He blew the whistle, and soon the feds had amassed wiretap recordings of Morgan making the necessary arrangements.

Kraiberg describes Morgan as a good employee, but one who pretended to have more pull than he really did. "I was very surprised and disappointed," the commissioner says.

Still, the timing of these events seemed remarkable. Was the city cracking down on the Trupianos in retaliation for their assistance with Morgan's indictment? "How all those things lined up in the universe is beyond me," Kraiberg says. "Totally and purely coincidental."

So why the focus on Lure? Rainford, the mayor's chief of staff, says he now defers to Kraiberg's department in the matter. But as for Lure, he says, "It's not like every other club is like this."

Yet some of them are, according to a Riverfront Times analysis of police records.

Citizens made several 911 calls over the past two years regarding fights, assaults and disturbances at Lure during bar hours or immediately after. Seven of those calls resulted in written reports.

Yet at the Loft on Olive Street, a mile and a half to the west, just as many calls have resulted in reports. At Jim Edmonds' Club 15, on Locust Street and only eight blocks from Lure, there were nine written reports.

These statistical measures only go so far: As the police note, they may initiate action without any call or report. But there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that violence has simply become commonplace on Washington Avenue. Over Labor Day weekend, a "highly intoxicated" young man on the sidewalk patio of the Sidebar got knocked out by an "unknown subject," police say.

On May 7, an argument over a hat at Lucas Park Grille moved outside to the valet service, where 29-year-old John Overschmidt of south city was sucker punched. He fell, hit his head on the curb, went into a seizure and briefly choked on his own blood before spending five days in a coma.

Talking to reporters the day after the triple shooting near Sugar Lounge, Rainford said the city's problem-property file on Lure was "thick." He later told RFT that the file justified putting Lure in the hot seat. A spokeswoman for the mayor, when asked to produce it, responded that there wasn't much in it that could be released. It contains mostly attorney's notes, she wrote in an e-mail, plus neighbors' complaints and details of police calls-for-service that are "confidential."

As for the other two clubs, Rainford says they got off the hook when they expressed a willingness to pay for extra security on busy nights.

"Sugar and Club 15 are at least saying the right thing as far as wanting to be better neighbors," he reports. "The Trupianos are taking a different tack, which is their right, but because they're taking a different tack, and because of their track record, we're taking a different tack."

In St. Louis, says Bob Kraiberg, "the neighborhood can giveth, and the neighborhood can taketh away." An aspiring bar owner must get the support of a majority of eligible property owners, registered voters and business licensees within a 350-foot radius for a regular liquor license. To stay open until 3 a.m. requires the same approval within a 500-foot radius.

Under city law, residents within that radius can also shut it down if enough of them sign a petition.

The petition drive against Lure, however, was not initiated by residents. Rather, records show it was spearheaded by the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis.

That only fueled the Trupianos' paranoia. They couldn't help but notice that the city's power brokers had once again aligned against them. Almost all of the partnership's board members are associated with companies that donated generously to Mayor Slay, who sits on the board ex officio.

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