St. Charles City Council to address changing point system, food requirement for Main Street bars
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - For years, business owners like Tony Bethmann have felt like the City of St. Charles push to keep Main Street under control has come at the expense of bars and restaurants.
“Why is anybody’s liquor license involved in someone else’s problem?” said Bethmann. “There are empty buildings sitting here, huge empty buildings, ripe for the taking, but nobody wants to come down and have to cheat as soon as you get down here with these non-sensical rules.”
An ordinance, first proposed in 2018 and reinforced in 2021 after being relaxed during the pandemic, established a points system listing 25 violations. This included things like occupancy violations, underage alcohol consumption, prostitution, gambling and homicide to name a few. Each type of violation was worth a certain number of points, and if a bar racked up more than 6.5 points in a six-month period, their liquor license would be revoked.
Bar owners, however, tell News 4 they have felt like these rules have never really been enforced.
“There’s only been a few people that have gotten points over the…I think three or four years…since it took effect,” said Bethmann.
St. Charles Mayor Daniel Borgmeyer tells News 4 he agrees in some cases, the points system did not make a significant change to whether or not someone’s license would be revoked.
“Because most of the time the points were assessed and they didn’t go anywhere. They just accumulated,” said Borgmeyer.
Now, Borgmeyer is proposing new changes to the point system, which he addressed with city council during a work session Tuesday that encompassed a number of changes to the city’s liquor code.
“Or ordinances relative to alcohol were fairly dated. I think we have 115 changes we’re making tonight,” he said.
Some of the changes on the code are relatively small, like changing some of the language in the code, according to Borgmeyer.
However, he is also proposing to modify the current point system. Rather than a fixed number per violation, a range of potential points could be administered depending on the violation and its severity.
The points system would be modified into three different categories: minor violations resulting in no suspension; significant violations resulting in suspension of a liquor license for up to 14 days; and major violations resulting in a license being revoked (which would come after bar accumulates 12 points or higher).
A new liquor commission made up of three independent and unbiased citizens would be in charge of assigning the points based on a set of criteria:
1. Seriousness of the facts surrounding a particular violation
2. If the licensee incurred more than one violation on the same date
3. The frequency, number of violations and points assessed for the immediate prior 36 months.
“I’m going to present my facts to the council on why I think we should be in terms of what ordinances should be, and then they will act on that probably in the next two weeks,” said Borgmeyer.
However, one of the biggest sticking points for many bars along Main Street has been the city’s requirement for food to make up 50 percent of total sales, which Bethmann says has deterred businesses from operating on Main Street or forced some to cut corners to meet the requirement.
“Unfortunately, we have to do weird things like open up for lunch even though it’s not profitable or feasible. So, there’s people that are open here for lunch and do pennies for lunch, lose money, just because of some 50 percent rule up the street,” said Bethmann.
During Tuesday’s work session, many city council members agreed with the proposed changes.
Borgmeyer tells News 4 he hopes to remove the food requirement for good.
“The price of a cheeseburger may have gone from $5 to $7, but the price of a glass of wine has gone from $5 to $15, so all of a sudden that balance doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Borgmeyer. “There’s just a variety reasons it hasn’t functioned properly. My particular stance on it is that people don’t commit crimes because they didn’t eat a cheeseburger.”
He also plans to establish other rules that bring back music and live entertainment for the bars along historic Main Street, which were originally outlawed in an attempt to control crowds and violence.
“We’re a college town [there] should be music, but I am proposing that it be contained, said Borgmeyer. “So, it’s got to be within four walls with only ingress and egress out the doors.”
When News 4 asked why Main Street has been the subject of this point system and other parts of the city have not, Borgmeyer said in part, “I can take all the other bars, in St. Charles City, and I don’t have the number of service calls that I have in the five blocks. And it’s because we have younger drinkers, we have the consolidation of people, they all get out at the same time, and they don’t sell food until late at night.”
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