St. CHARLES, MO - After months of discussion, the St. Charles City Council voted in favor of a new set of rules it hopes will curb concerns about late night drinking on North Main Street. This stems from tension between bars and other businesses in the area over crowds some say are causing damage and committing crimes.
There are three main actions in the new bill sponsored by council members Dave Beckering, Mary West, Bart Haberstroh, John Hanneke, Rod Herrmann, and Bridges Ohmes. The first creates a three-person Liquor Commission for the city made up of the Chief of Police, Director of Finance and Director of Community Development.
The second part establishes a city-wide point system for alcohol-related offenses. For example, a bar caught serving minors might receive a three-point penalty.
With the proposed point system, a bar’s license could be revoked if the bar exceeds a certain number of points, or if the bar receives three violations of certain offenses within 90 days.
Business owner Randy Schilling spoke in favor of the bill and the need to make N. Main St. a safe place for businesses and families.
"Without public safety, our ability to attract and retain talent will suffer," said Schilling, "along with additional investment dollars that are necessary to continue the economic revitalization of downtown."
The third part requires bars and restaurants to prove at least 50 percent of their business comes from food sales. Previously, bars had to prove they had $200,000 in food sales.
Diana Neigel, the owner of Lloyd & Harry's, said that amount was manageable.
"There used to be a $200,000 cap which meant if you went over the $200,000 with your food, you were okay," said Neigel. "Now that has been removed. Now it’s 50/50. Now you have to change your whole model. You have to sell more food than you do liquor."
Two city council members, Mary Ann Ohms, and Tom Besselman, spoke up in support of keeping the required food sales at $200,000. They asked their six colleagues who sponsored the bill to reconsider.
"We’re changing the rules in the midstream for the current property owners and operators," said Ohms. "Investments were made by these people and entities based upon the rules at the time."
The council voted in favor despite their request.
The new rule on food sales will go into effect in January 2019. Bar owners will not have to prove 50 percent sales until they re-apply for their license in June 2020.
Neigel was upset following the council's vote. She said the council's decision will put her business and her livelihood in jeopardy.
"I put everything I own into coming to St. Charles, into coming home," said Neigel. "I left here in '93 when the flood took everything I own. So, I was finally back at home. I’ve done everything they want. I have no violations, I have not been in trouble. My food sales were double their minimum."
Neigel employs more than 40 people.