Monday, September 24, 2018

Club Imperial, Legendary St. Louis Nightclub, Is for Sale Tomorrow (Again)

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 1:36 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman

If you want to own one of the most important pieces of St. Louis music history, get yourself to the city's Civil Courts Building (10 N. Tucker Boulevard) by 9 a.m. tomorrow.

There, at one of five yearly Land Tax sales hosted by the city of St. Louis, you can grab up all manner of properties that have been seized by the sheriff for back taxes — including the former home of the storied Club Imperial at 6306 West Florissant Avenue.

The north-side nightclub is where St. Louis-based musical superstars like Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner got their start. That small stage helped launch the careers of Dolly Parton, the Monkeys, Glen Campbell and on any given mid-century night, the joint was jumpin’.



click to enlarge The Legendary Anna Mae Bullock - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE METRO ST. LOUIS LIVE MUSIC HISTORICAL SOCIETY VIA IMPERIALSWING.COM AND GREG EDICK
  • photo courtesy of the Metro St. Louis Live Music Historical Society via imperialswing.com and Greg Edick
  • The Legendary Anna Mae Bullock

The club is listed for $82,278, which seems like a steal in light of its importance to music history. But once you see pictures of the devastation hiding behind the signature striped brick facade, the amount may feel harder to swallow.

click to enlarge Club Imperial then - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE METRO ST. LOUIS LIVE MUSIC HISTORICAL SOCIETY VIA IMPERIALSWING.COM AND GREG EDICK
  • photo courtesy of the Metro St. Louis Live Music Historical Society via imperialswing.com and Greg Edick
  • Club Imperial then

click to enlarge Club Imperial now - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman
  • Club Imperial now

Pictures from Robert Vroman, whose company acquired the property at a tax sale in 2017, show the conditions inside the building, explaining why Vroman sought a full tear-down. The city’s Historic Preservation Board, however, denied his request, voting unanimously that no, the site could not be a future Applebee’s and that the historic facade must remain standing.

Himself a north-city resident, Vroman says he was the only bidder in 2017. He found someone willing to reinvest in the property, provided Vroman was able to acquire the demolition permit, but found himself blocked.

Over the weekend, Vroman took to Facebook to announce the sale, and vent his frustration with the entire process.

Vroman wrote:
Great news St. Louis! Your favoritest burnt rotting murderzone landmark, Club Imperial at 6306 W Florissant is back up for sale courtesy of Sheriff Betts this coming Tuesday, Sep 25 for $82k in back taxes. The fetid basement bowling alley where Ike himself wrote bad checks, can be yours four days from now via the final step in the City’s obtuse tax forfeiture gauntlet. Do you have 20k square feet worth of pipe dreams, or even 20k feet of pipe? The Cultural Resources Office is ready and eager to stand over your shoulder every step of the way.

(A little explanation on that screed: The Historic Preservation Board, which denied Vroman's demolition request, works with staff at the city's Cultural Resources Office.)

So what will it take for Club Imperial to be returned to glory? Judging by these pictures, it requires an HGTV-size intervention. Will anyone step up?

Vroman, clearly, isn't hopeful. He explains that at the time the Historic Preservation Board denied his demolition request, he'd owned the building for six months "and had no leads for the building as-is, and had borrowed the funds to acquire it, with payments past due." He says, "I had no choice but to have my lawyer arrange a refund, and send the building back to the sheriff."

The city has assessed the building's value at $226,300, online records show. The Collector of Revenue's files show a total of $101,729.99 past due in taxes.

See more of Vroman's photos of the interior conditions below.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT VROMAN
  • photo courtesy of Robert Vroman


Email the author at jaime.lees@riverfronttimes.com
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