ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Police officers say they’ve never seen more crime at one downtown business. That assessment came out in testimony today against Reign Restaurant.
With its liquor license already suspended a couple of weeks ago, Reign now faces closure after a nuisance abatement hearing overseen by a Public Safety hearing officer.
Residents said Reign changed the neighborhood. Jessica Montgomery testified she and her husband broke their lease six months early to get away from the business.
“Reign made it so much more of a tense and unpredictable feeling on Washington, that it made me afraid to be out,” she said.
Video of a Dec. 12 shootout in front of Reign was just one of many violent videos shown in today’s hearing. Police said the video was withheld from investigators at first. A detective also testified that a Reign security guard was involved in picking up a gun that should have been collected as evidence in the shooting investigation. The detective said she has still not received that gun.
Nuisance abatement officers also showed shootings from Aug. 18, Aug. 21, and Aug. 31 of this year. They also showed a shooting and three assaults from Sept. 8.
Dana Kelly, Reign’s outspoken owner, was not at today’s hearing. Instead, two attorneys appeared on behalf of Reign’s landlord, a separate entity. While cross-examining witnesses, the attorneys said the landlord had unsuccessfully tried evicting Reign.
The restaurant’s owner, Kelly, has not spoken publicly since Reign’s liquor license was suspended two weeks ago on Sept. 6. At that time, the NAACP wrote a letter in support of Reign, questioning why the city is focusing on that business. NAACP representatives called it unfair and said there were crime problems elsewhere that deserved more attention.
Today’s hearing did not appear to have anyone show up in support of the restaurant. No one testified on behalf of the business.
The only opposition came from the landlord’s attorneys, one of whom said no one can say with a straight face that Reign is not a nuisance. The attorneys never defended Reign and said the landlord has been trying to evict the business. Their contention to the hearing officer was that he not punish the landlord in the event they successfully evict Reign and rent to a more responsible business. They argued the action should be taken against Reign and not the property owner.
That hearing officer could rule at any time.