‘This is tedious’ Bar & restaurant owners in the city say liquor license process is inefficient

Some business owners believe bureaucracy is bogging down new bars and restaurants in the city of St. Louis.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Some business owners believe bureaucracy is bogging down new bars and restaurants in the city of St. Louis.

They say the process to get a new liquor license can take months and it’s even stopping them from creating more business in the city.

“I’m like God, this is tedious,” said Christina Robles.

Christina Robles owns Padrinos in Tower Grove, a Mexican restaurant where booze is served.

But to get a license, Robles said it was frustrating.

“It’s like confusion, definitely not efficient, there was no real direction,” said Robles.

The biggest issue for Robles is getting signatures from those that live and own businesses around her sometimes known as neighborhood verification.

“So I have a day job. I can’t just go work all day around the street trying to find where these people are. I mean people have busy lives,” said Robles.

After four to five months of trying, eventually Robles was able to get a license two weeks after opening Padrinos and then later created another Mexican establishment in Brentwood called Sal Y Limon.

She says it took less than a month.

“Night and day,” said Robles.

After a breezy process in the county she wants the city to help business owners.

“I want the process to change,” said Robles.

Robles isn’t alone. Over one dozen business owners signed on to this letter, asking the city to change its process.

But not all agree.

“I don’t necessarily want to see the process change much,” said Dan Pistor.

Dan Pistor Chair of the Downtown Neighborhood Association said gathering signatures from neighbors serves a purpose.

“They should have a say so as to what the establishment is going to operate as,” said Pistor.

Because nobody wants to live next to a bad neighbor.

“It could a lot of times be disruptive, we had a lot of well documented issues downtown where establishments were disruptive,” said Pistor.

Downtown has had issues with bars, including Reign, which closed after multiple shootings and other issues.

He also said it’s not fair to compare St. Louis and Brentwood as bars in the suburbs are often not in neighborhoods.

“Completely apples and oranges,” said Pistor.

Still the city of St. Louis appears to be listening.

Short staffing at the city’s Excise Department is one reason why the licenses can take awhile and the city is deploying more employees to help.

“We’re going to see an expedition of applicants who have already applied,” said Jared Boyd.

Boyd, Chief of Staff for Mayor Tishaura Jones, said the mayor will be listening to business owners and neighbors and working with the Board of Aldermen to create a better, more efficient process.

The Board would have to approve any change to city law.

“I think we can both encourage wonderful restaurants to continue to serve St. Louisans and also listen to neighbors and hear their concerns about certain businesses,” said Boyd.

The mayor’s office said around 30 liquor licenses are currently pending and awaiting verification and approval.

And if changes aren’t made, Robles will think twice about opening more restaurants in the city.

“It’s a big hindrance. I don’t want to do it,” said Robles.

There is at least one consultant company that helps businesses with gathering signatures. Robles said that can cost around $2,000.