Main Street bar owners are concerned for their businesses after Mayor Dan Borgmeyer of St. Charles banned loud music and dancing on three blocks of North Main Street.
The ban was announced at a live news conference on Jan. 26 and affects businesses with liquor licenses in the 100-300 blocks of Main Street.
The new rule comes after a recent increase in violence, including a fatal shooting in December, during the closing hours at bars and nightclubs.
Borgmeyer said that the Main Street area is not zoned for nightclubs and isn’t a permitted use in the city’s zoning code.
Borgmeyer said in the statement that businesses have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of patrons and crowded sidewalks during the pandemic, which has led to an increase in police incidents.
“In addition, let me stress 99% of patrons are law abiding and socially responsible people. But unfortunately, a few bad actors are ruining it for everyone,” Borgmeyer said.
Saint Charles County has increased the number of police officers on Main Street in the evening hours to curb crime and help control the long lines outside of bars.
“The police are doing a great job in monitoring that and controlling it,” Borgmeyer said. “Most of the people on the side of the streets are respectful and do what we asked them to do and are not a problem.”
A citywide curfew that enforced an 11 p.m. closing on bars, restaurants, and nightclubs was lifted on Jan. 12.
“I will tell you that we are sympathetic to them,” Borgmeyer said. “But we’ve also been down this road for a year or so now, so now it’s time for the city to say exactly what we expect and what I have to comply to.”
Eric Sohn, owner of Quintessential Dining and Nightlife on North Main Street, said the ban on loud music and dancing will be devastating to businesses.
“We’ve been open for almost 12 years, and we opened this business with the intention of being quintessential dining and nightlife,” Sohn said. “We designed this around the dining concept as well as the nightlife because the industry has always been known for nightlife.”
Sohn said that Quintessential Dining and Nightlife has always depended on live entertainment and will now have to rely on iPads to play music over speakers.
“We’ve always had DJ’s on Thursday, Friday, Saturday…So the removal of any kind of DJ is just going to be horrible on business, especially for Lindenwood students who want to come out here and listen to a DJ. It’s kind of hard to do this to an iPad,” Sohn said.
Sohn added that it will hurt those in the music industry who make a living performing at businesses on Main Street.
“The way that we pay our guitar players throughout the week is you know, if I have a guitar player here on a Friday or Saturday night, they get paid with the cover charge that we bring in for DJ’s,” Sohn said. “So if I don’t have that cover charge coming in on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, then we don’t have the budget to pay a deposit [for musicians.]”
In order to comply with the new ban, Quintessential Dining and Nightlife is at limited capacity and is putting couches on the dance floor to encourage customers not to dance. Sohn also noted that music will be played at dinnertime volume, but it’s hard to determine what volume is legally acceptable since there wasn’t a decibel range stated in the new ban.
According to a noise ordinance passed in 2018, businesses in St. Charles were allowed to play music at a maximum of 65 decibels between 10:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m.
Sohn said that an increase of customers from St. Louis County and social media most likely contributed to the creation of the ban.
“There has been recently two incidents behind lawyers of gun violence,” Sohn said. “Unfortunately, somebody lost their life. But I think that that normally would not have happened had St. Louis County and St. Louis city, knocking on COVID lockdowns.
“I think another reason though that there might seem to be more crime down here than the normal is social media. 12 years ago, when Q first opened, Snapchat didn’t exist. Now, you could be at a bar or nightclub, or even a restaurant, you see a fight taking place, and all of a sudden putting people on their phones, and it’s on social media instantly.”
Sohn said that Main Street has always been known for its nightlife, and if that aspect is taken away it will affect the culture of downtown St. Charles.
“And if they shut this down, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the city. It’s just going to be boring,” Sohn said. “There’s not going to be a lot of options for Lindenwood students in particular.”
In addition to the music and dancing ban, Bogmeyer also said the St. Charles City Council is examining the current liquor ordinance and is moving with haste to revise the current disciplinary point system for businesses with liquor licenses.
In a St. Charles City Council session on Jan. 19, the council proposed Bill 13208 that would create a 30% food sales requirement instead of the current 50% requirement needed for a business to keep it’s liquor license.
In a New Wentzvillian Facebook live video on Jan. 31, Borgmeyer said the bill was proposed since some businesses were struggling with the current food sales requirement.
“So the council looked at it and said, ‘well, the intent was to control, not to really put anybody out of business’, so they talked about lowering it to 30%. That bill is actually scheduled to go through, then all this stuff started happening,” Borgmeyer said in the video.
While talking about the music and dance ban on Facebook live, Bogmeyer said the places with live music and DJ’s are the ones that are consistently in police citation reports.
“There’s a lot of people saying, ‘well how stupid are you stopping dancing and not playing music, that’s not going to stop crime.’ No, it’s not. But it’s going to decimate the venue that attracts the kind of people that become bad actors in that particular environment,” Bogmeyer said.
Since the ban has been enforced, several St. Charles police officers were injured responding to disturbance on Main Street early Sunday morning.
One police officer suffered a minor injury to his leg and was taken to a hospital to be treated. Two other officers suffered minor injuries that did not require treatment. Four people were arrested.