Tony Soprano or Mother Teresa: City Investigates Ownership of Controversial College Bar

A new bar near the Saint Louis University campus featuring such classy promotions as "Free 'Till You Pee" is being investigated by the city's liquor control board amid concerns about its ownership. The bar, CHEA+TER'S Sports Grill & Ultrapub, opened this summer in the space that previously housed the Laclede Street Bar & Grill.

On paper, the bar's liquor license -- which allows alcohol sales until 3 a.m. -- is all in order. But the city's excise commissioner, Robert Kraiberg, confirms that his office is looking into whether the new bar actually has the same old owner, as it claims. If the ownership has actually changed, though, they'd have to get a new license -- allowing the neighbors, including the university, to weigh in.

"What it says on paper and what it says in reality can be two different things," says Kraiberg. "Who's paying the bills? Is it Mother Teresa or is it Tony Soprano?"

The new bar opened in August. A planned grand opening celebration for tomorrow night has been pushed back to next Friday, according to the CHEA+TER'S Facebook page. The website says that's in order to accommodate SLU's sororities.

But Kraiberg's admission that the license is under investigation suggests that trouble could be brewing.

The liquor license for the premises is currently held by LSBG MS LLC, which is owned by Mike Sansone. For now, the bar is still operating under the LSBG MS LLC liquor license, but Kraiberg says the liquor control board isn't sure Sansone is still really running the show.

"There's obviously a couple different viewpoints as to who is running it," Kraiberg says. Indeed, the bar's under-construction web site and its Facebook page both mention Monday Restaurants, of which a man named Brian Monday is listed as an organizer with the secretary of state. Kraiberg confirms that his department is primarily investigating whether Monday is running the bar instead of Sansone -- thereby necessitating a transfer.

"Part of the debate is as to whether Brian Monday is in fact working for [Sansone's business] Laclede Street Bar & Grill or if it's a new entity," says Kraiberg.

(Neither Monday nor Sansone have returned our calls for comment; we'll update this post if we hear back.)

The city's liquor boss is taking a hard look at the bills CHEA+TER'S is paying, from suppliers, utilities and others, Kraiberg says. If the excise commission determines that a new entity is running the bar instead of Sansone, Monday (or whoever is actually running the place) will have to apply for a new liquor license and a new 3 a.m. serving license.

If that happens, the community ultimately has a great deal of input, Kraiberg says. "In the city, a major factor in determining whether a place gets a 1 or a 3 a.m. closing permit has to do with the community. It's not a political decision or a bureaucratic decision. Most of the power rests with the neighbors."

And one neighbor in particular has expressed an opinion on the bar: Saint Louis University, the Jesuit college that sits right by the bar. The student paper, The University News, ran an editorial on Sept. 1 calling the bar "too close, too crude and too controversial." The editorial objected to the implied dishonesty in the name, the get-drunk drink specials and the all-female waitstaff.

"I think Saint Louis University has some opinions about it, and they share an equal status as any other citizen in the community," Kraiberg says. "It's not 'what they say goes,' though. They may have some influence."

Kraiberg says he's still investigating and will likely make a decision within a few days.
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