City: Rev. Rice must close New Life Evangelistic Center by April - KMOV.com

City: Rev. Rice must close New Life Evangelistic Center by April 1

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The controversial New Life Evangelistic Center, operated by Reverend Larry Rice, must close by April 1 according to the City of St. Louis.

Thursday, a city Board of Appeals gave the final ruling after Rice protested the initial order to close by claiming it violated his religious rights.

City officials have contended Rice was operating the NLEC illegally, and was in violation of a number of municipal ordinances.

The center was issued a permit for 32 beds in 1976, but was housing more than 200 people per night. That permit expired in 2015 and Rice mounted an unsuccessful argument in court that he did not need community approval before applying for a new permit.

He continued to operate without a permit and was issued a cease and desist letter in 2016.

Rice has drawn ire from downtown city landlords who sued him in 2016 on the grounds the shelter was a nuisance that affected public safety and quality of life. Nearly all of the 100 emergency calls for synthetic marijuana overdoses this fall came from an area within a few blocks of the shelter.

With the ruling Thursday, Rice has exhausted his ability to appeal and must shutter the center in two and a half months.

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