Friday, January 18, 2008

Controversial New Liquor Law To Be Voted On Tuesday

The St. Charles City Council is considering changes to the existing liquor laws in the city. This will be the second time the council has taken up changing the liquor laws in the City of St. Charles in recent months.

Just a short time ago they passed a resolution declaring the Ameristar Casino property a convention area. This was done so that bars on the Casino property but off of the casino floor could apply with the Missouri Gaming Commission for a 3:00 a.m. closing time instead of the 1:30 a.m. time that they had been required to adhere to. The bars at the Casino are not regulated by state liquor control. They come under the control of the gaming commission. The bars on the casino floor were allowed to stay open until 3 am but the bars in other parts of the casino property had to close earlier. Shortly after the council approved the 3 a.m. closing time Ameristar Casino offered the Mayor and all the councilmen and their guests free rooms and a free party on New Years eve. Ameristar Casino is the only licensee to posses such liberal drinking laws and closing times. None of the other bars or restaurants are allowed to stay open that late and many of the bar owners are upset. Ameristar Casino also made donations to campaign funds to the Mayor and some of the council members. Some of the donations were made after the election. Shortly thereafter the council voted on renaming Riverside Drive, Ameristar Casino Drive.

Our sources have told us that there are between four and five fights a night at the new Home Night Club that has opened in the lobby of Ameristar outside of the casino. Sources at city hall told us that the police are receiving numerous calls at the Home Night Club. The nightclub opened on December 27, 2007.

The proposed changes by Councilman Richard Veit to the liquor laws have been part of a national debate and has put St. Charles on the map. Though the publicity the city has been receiving may not be as welcomed as some would like. “Mayor York and her band of merry men and one woman have made our city a laughing stock with this proposed new law,” commented a bar owner who asked to have his name withheld. The owner was fearful because his renewal has to be approved by the council and Mayor’s staff.
The new law would have made it illegal to curse or use profane language in bars. This language was stricken from the bill after a fire storm of complaints. The bills sponsor, Richard Veit, took the language out citing that the language was taken from state liquor laws. After calling the state the FCN found out that the language had been written into the state law over 70 years ago and much has changed since then.
The proposed law would also “reinsert Director of Finance in the suspension/revocation process” according to documents from the city. Karen McDermott, the Finance Director, was taken out of the liquor license review process by the previous city council. The council determined her roll wasn’t needed because the suspension and revocation was a public safety issue. When the change occurred the Police Chief Tim Swope, Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes and acting Community Development Director Bruce Evans allegedly had problems getting McDermott to agree to suspend licenses of bars that were not abiding to the laws, serving under age drinkers, and unruly crowds with excessive police calls for service. The finance director has no public safety training.
Many residents who contacted the FCN believe that true intent of the new law was to cover up the fact that a bar rumored to be owned by the Yorks’ son and a friend and located in the Mayor’s building on North Main Street was illegally issued a liquor license. According to our sources Mayor York and the city staff pushed through the liquor license for “The Lounge” even after the Police Chief sent a memo stating “another bar” wouldn’t be a good situation on Main Street.
Mayor York did not respond to our requests for an interview regarding this matter. After being told by historic preservationist Penny Pitman that the Mayor may own the bar on North Main, KMOX radio contacted the Mayor while she was traveling in Italy. They reported she told them, “We will go over this matter later.”
The proposed new liquor bill will be voted on by the city council next Tuesday. City council meetings are televised and can be viewed at 7:00 p.m. on Charter cable channel 20.