(Video: North Main Nights)
If you agree that extending North Main night life (shown in video above) to South Main is inappropriate and detrimental to the neighborhood and the city, please click here to send an email message to Council. >> Call the Mayor's office at 636-949-3268. Attend the Council meeting on October 4 (postponed from September 25).
A public hearing was opened on September 4 at City Council meeting. Residents and property owners on South Main and surrounding neighborhood were present and many spoke. Council further discussed the issue at a work session on September 11. The public hearing remains open and will be reconvened on October 4.
At the request of David and Tammy Campbell of Little Hills Winery, Council is considering a zoning change to allow live music alongside alcohol on South Main. North Main Councilwoman Mary Ann Ohms is introducing the bill to allow live music in establishments on South Main that serve alcohol. See Bill #10836 >>
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted against the zoning change. City staff recommends denial. South Main Preservation Society is not in favor of changing Historic District zoning to allow live music in businesses with a liquor license.
INTENSITY OF ACTIVITY
On South Main, it is not legal to have live music if you have a liquor license. Live music is not banned; it is the combination of live music and alcohol that is banned on South Main but allowed on North Main.
Bar owners spend money for live music because it encourages patrons to stay longer and consume more. As a result of live music, the intensity of the nightlife activity and accompanying issues of loitering, noise, trash and misdemeanors/crime would be incompatible within our mixed use South Main Historic District.
Disturbance issues arise when patrons leave an establishment offering live music and alcohol. Patrons have stayed to have a few more drinks and listen to the music — as a result, voices are louder and they are less inhibited as they make their way to cars. There is no remedy for these disturbances. Quality of life for residents and B&B patrons is diminished.
More serious complaints as a result of the music and alcohol combination are demonstrated in the list of police calls discussed below.
Restaurants on South Main must have at least 51% of sales in food. However, it is known that this requirement is not enforced for North or South Main restaurants/bars. Without live music, it is unlikely that South Main restaurants will not meet the 51% requirement. But with live music, the percentages are likely change drastically and accompanying problems rise in proportion.
Live music draws a crowd; few South Main properties have more than a few parking spaces; some have none. As with festivals, crowds, parking congestion and noise issues also affect those in the extended neighborhood. More serious complaints may extend into the neighborhood.
1273 POLICE CALLS
Police calls on Main Street from January thru June of this year total 1273 calls. Most of the calls are related to the night time activities on North Main. Offenses include fights, urinating in public, assault, theft, property damage, car theft, burglary, robbery, drunk driving, drugs, pick pocketing, disturbance of peace. Many more incidents go unreported.
Allowing live music in combination with alcohol on South Main could eventually extend the intense bar scene of North Main. The police have said they cannot control ill effects of North Main (3 blocks) night life. A recent news report titled “Concern arises over crime spike in St. Charles Historic Main Street”, quotes a police officer: There are still some incidents like fighting or public drunkenness that are too tough to do anything about. View news report >>
CONTROLS & CONDITIONS
A supporter of the bill might say: What would be the harm of a musician with a non-amplified guitar? — A previous Historic District councilman said city legal council informed him that it would be an issue of freedom of speech to specify non-amplified v.s. amplified music, inside v.s outside music, designated instruments, music genre and therefore such restrictions are not possible.
A supporter of Councilwoman Ohms’ bill might argue that the city has noise ordinances that would prohibit loud music. — We have been told there are times when an entire shift of city police are handling issues on North Main. Noise issues on South Main would be difficult to monitor, of lower priority and would likely receive less enforcement attention.
No one can prevent the revelry and misbehavior of intoxicated patrons or even the revelry of non-intoxicated patrons who are pumped up by the party atmosphere. Calling police after the fact does not prevent the cause of the call, i.e. vandalism, noise, crime.
The North Main bar scene began at a modest level and built over time. If night life is encouraged on South Main by allowing live music, the trajectory on South Main is predictable and devastating to the premise on which the South Main Historic District was built: a mix of small businesses compatible with residential uses.
Choosing to add nightlife is a choice of no return. Whatever the restrictions or conditions, they would be loosened over time. Enforcement depends on a neighbor's willingness to call the police and the commitment or ability of the police to follow through; everyone wearies of the process and the situation grows. Witness the example on North Main: Of the collection of restaurant/bars, some will pump it up, the area attracts more restaurant/bars, the area becomes known for nightlife... then the daytime economy suffers or dies and the area is no longer viable for residents.
The consequences of nightlife entertainment may include all of the following:
- the character of the crowd changes
- traditional South Main customers are discouraged
- crime and vandalism escalate
- property owners forgo improvements
- property values trend down
- loss of residents
- the reputation for the entire city
- marketing efforts are hampered by a
- diminished reputation
- property damage increases
- available properties are no longer
- attractive to non-alcohol business tenants and buyers
- increased parking pressures
- increased crowd noise levels
- increased public expenses for police
- protection, emergency services, damage to public property
- general neighborhood decline
Coucilpeople have yet to credibly state compelling advantages of the allowing live music in combination with alcohol in the South Main Historic District.
The proposed zoning change is incompatible with the South Main Historic District zoning description.
As businesses and properties change hands, as councilpeople turnover, original commitments also change and evolve. Enforcement is always an issue. The proposed zoning change has the potential to change the direction of the Historic District and surrounding neighborhood forever.
Once the door is opened for nightlife, proliferation begins. Live music with alcohol creates a party atmosphere which is appropriate in some areas but not appropriate in a mixed use Historic District.
Everyone is in favor of more business for David and Tammy and all the restaurants on South Main — but within the zoning definitions that protect the surrounding neighborhood and the homes, properties and businesses of the Historic District that are assets for all in the City of St. Charles.