ST. CHARLES, Mo. – There will be no more dancing or loud music allowed on historic Main Street in St. Charles. Mayor Dan Borgmeyer made the announcement Monday, admitting it may sound like something from the movie “Footloose” but saying something’s got to be done about a recent spike in gunfire in the area.
“Part of what we’ve seen is an uptick in the use of weapons,” said St. Charles Police Captain, Ray Jenks.
“The enforcement hammer went down today,” the mayor said.
Main Street is known for its shops, big holiday events, restaurants, bars, and yes, night life, but in recent months it’s become known for massive street crowds and gunfire. Police have repeatedly responded to calls for “shots fired.” There’s even been a murder.
Total legal capacity for businesses in the historic district on North Main is around 3,000 but the number’s been hitting 5,000 to 6,000 on busy nights, according to the mayor, with night clubs drawing most of the people. The historic district is not zoned for dancing, loud music, or live entertainment, city officials said.
“They’re not zoned for night club activity,” Borgmeyer said. “This is not my first rodeo. I didn’t get the name ‘Mayor Footloose’ by accident. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to control it. We’ve identified the types of behavior that are causing the problems we’re having. Until that’s mitigated or we can find some other venue for people to do it we’re going to continue to be more restrictive rather than less.”
“We’ve had several incidents over the last couple of months. At this point, with the way we want to treat St. Charles and keep it safe, even is one too many,” Capt. Jenks said.
About 18-19 businesses are impacted. They all got letters from the city Monday notifying them of the changes, the mayor said.
The changes also include strict enforcement of the city code requiring that food sales account for at least 50% of businesses that serve alcohol, a requirement that had been eased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor said.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, along with county council representatives Terry Hollander, Nancy Schneider, and John White (for districts 5, 6, and 7, respectively) sent a letter to the St. Charles City Council, which said the four of them, “are very concerned at the direction certain parts of the Historic District have been headed in the last year.”
The letter explained the 50/50 rule in St. Charles, which means that at least 50 percent of an establishment’s total earnings must come from food and the other may come from alcohol. After the pandemic hit, the city suspended the rule.
“You just wonder again how much of the problem wouldn’t be here except for the fact that again Illinois, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, everybody closes at 11 o’clock,” Ehlmann said.
Ehlmann said the city expressed interest in lowering the rule to 70/30, which means only 30 percent of sales must come from food.
“Any semblance of a restaurant disappeared, and they became night club with a new clientele interested only in dancing and drinking,” the letter stated.
Ehlmann said with the recent uptick in crime, that number concerned him and the council members listed. The letter said implementing the lower food sale requirement would, “only add to the deterioration we have seen on Main Street. We want you to know that, should you decide to go in that direction, we will be considering the option of introducing at our County Council meeting on January 25, 2021, a proposed charter amendment addressing the problems developing on Main Street.”
“It’s ironic because normally we would be tickled to death to see people from all over the region coming to spend their money in St. Charles County, but you know when they’re doing it late at night, there’s alcohol involved, a lot of times the outcome isn’t the one that we would like to see,” Ehlmann said.
Ehlmann said he is pleased with the city’s announcement on Monday and hopes this brings crime in the area to an end.
Three businesses on Historic Main Street, Tony’s on Main Street, Novellus, and Used Jewelry Buyer, hired attorney Dan Goldberg to make sure the city enforces the rule because they are concerned the recent uptick in crime could affect business.
“There’s been a lot of vandalism down here and also the fact that there’s crime down here, my clients are fearful that people just aren’t going to come to Main Street,” Goldberg said.
You can read the letter below in its entirety: