Controversial Liquor Bill Stirs Up Trouble in St. Charles

click to enlarge Some business owners say they're sick of the late-night rowdiness on Main Street. - FLICKR / @PASA
Some business owners say they're sick of the late-night rowdiness on Main Street.

A potential loosening of St. Charles liquor laws have some business owners up in arms.

A bill up for final vote next Tuesday would eliminate St. Charles’ requirement for bars' and restaurants’ alcohol sales to make up no more than half of their total revenue. Many business owners are threatening to leave in response, but advocates of the measure say it will benefit the area.

“I want to be here, but like every third month I’m spending six grand on something I had nothing to do with,” April Moxley says of damage to her home decor store, April’s on Main. She says a drunk driver once crashed into her garage door, and a fight once resulted in broken windows.

Moxley isn’t alone: Other business owners in St. Charles historic district blame drunken behavior for property damage over the years. They say taking away the requirement for bars and restaurants to keep food sales at a minimum of 50 percent would make things worse.

Signs saying “Save Historic Main Street” hang in business windows. Mailers with pictures of property damage urge residents to call councilmen and tell them to vote against the bill.

At a St. Charles City Council meeting last week, dozens of residents packed into city hall to air their grievances. Some worried an open door for alcohol sales would cause a jump in crime. Others worried that wild behavior would tarnish Main Street’s historic charm.

Another resident feared increased alcohol sales would bring a “thug mentality” to St. Charles as people from north county and St. Louis city might flock to the area.

“What do you want to see and hear when you come to Main Street?” asked one speaker. “Loud music blaring f-bombs and lyrics about cop killers and rapists?”

Councilman Christopher Kyle, one of seven sponsors of the bill, says the measure would accomplish more than what it gets credit for.

If passed, the bill would change how the St. Charles Liquor Commission penalizes businesses for liquor violations, such as serving minors, gambling or surpassing occupancy limits, by clarifying language on the city’s points system to make it easier to enforce. Under the bill, if a bar reaches 12 points, the city could revoke its license.

Kyle says a lot of the bill’s negative feedback derives from misinformation. Critics worry the bill would add more nightclubs and bars and create a “nightclub district” along the northern side of Main Street. This couldn’t be further from the case, Kyle says.

“The bill pertains to nightclubs and bars, but there’s nothing written in the bill that has anything to do with adding more bars or nightclubs, nor does the council or the mayor want to increase that or make an entertainment area,” Kyle tells the RFT.

Main Street could see more bars, Kyle says. But the city council controls which businesses are approved.

“We put a conditional use permit on every liquor license — we control how they act and control what they do,” Kyle says.

Removing St. Charles’ 50/50 liquor law would save the city $500,000 a year in audits, according to St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer. The mayor spoke to citizens about the bill at a recent council meeting but did not respond to the RFT’s requests for comment.

Bormeyer said the city’s current liquor law has steered some viable businesses away from investing in St. Charles.

Scott Tate, president of Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce, says owners of a tap house with other locations in the region once considered opening a spot on Main Street but chose not to because of the 50 percent food requirement. The business only served higher-end beer but allowed patrons to bring in food from other businesses.

“The fact that there’s a food sales requirement doesn’t make sense,” Tate says. “I think we have to be realistic about what restaurants and bars are able to do.”

Some argue the 50/50 liquor law was never enforced anyway.

“I know, for a fact, there’s several bars on the street that don’t reach 50/50, and there’s nothing done about that,” says Dennis Dixon, manager of Quintessential Dining & Nightlife on North Main Street.

Dixon added that he turns in Quintessential’s numbers to city hall every month. The restaurant offers off-site catering and doesn’t have a problem reaching the 50 percent food requirement, but still, the liquor law “is dumb.”

“It's preventing a lot of good businesses from coming here,” Dixon says.

This argument does not sway critics.

Amy Wilson, co-owner of Framations on North Main Street, says she’s all for bars on Main Street, but as long as they follow the current law.

“If you want to have a bar and not serve food, don’t put it on Main Street,” Wilson says. “It’s supposed to be a family friendly environment. Not a nightclub atmosphere.”

From the hours of 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., Main Street turns into a scene that would make its French and German ancestors quake in their boots, per Wilson's accounts.

“It’s like free for all sex,” Wilson adds.

Wilson often cleans puke and urine off her property in the mornings.

“[I] catch them doing all kinds of things near my back entrance, which is not fun,” she says. “My porch has seen more action than I have.”

The rowdiness heightened during the pandemic, according to Wilson, when health orders in St. Louis city and county restricted gatherings while St. Charles County remained fairly loose.

More recently, in March, both Wilson and Moxley each had to pay a few thousand dollars to replace windows after a man fired gunshots into Main Street businesses during a drunken rampage. The incident cost Moxley $6,500.

In addition, Moxley says she has to pay $3,400 to replace a pipe in her air conditioner after a repairman told her a dog peed on it.

“What the hell kind of dog would pee on the air conditioner?” Moxley says. “It’s the bar people. We had a camera there so I started watching it. It’s guys pissing on the air conditioner.”

About The Author

Monica Obradovic

Monica Obradovic is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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