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East St. Louis Entertainment District? Illinois Officials Urge Against 24-Hour Nightclubs

Categories: News

nightclub-file.jpg
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Last week, in his State of the City address, East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks unveiled a plan for economic growth in his city that involves extended hours for local nightclubs.

"Entertainment is a tourist attraction, entertainment helps to bring commerce, we need something to drive some dollars here in East St. Louis," Parks said.

Some officials in Illinois, however, are not so fond of the part of his vision that involves 24-hour clubs and have penned a harshly worded letter to Parks urging him to nix this. They argue that this change could increase the risk of violence and undermine federal law enforcement efforts.

See also:
- Video Emerges of Fight Inside East St. Louis Nightclub
- East St. Louis Mayor On Concealed Carry Law: "More Guns...Is Not The Answer"
- Video: East St. Louis Food Stamp Brawl Caught on Camera

The letter comes from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, who say that an ordinance passed last year to limit operating hours of nightclubs has been successful. The letter, full text below, refers to nightclubs as "hubs of criminal activity, murder and violence."

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via Facebook
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks.

The two write:

Progress has been made in recent months in rebuilding public safety institutions in East St. Louis and surrounding communities, but there is a long way to go. That's why it is shocking and disappointing that you are now proposing to abandon existing closing hours for nightclubs in the city. Allowing these nightclubs to stay open all night will increase the risk of violence and killings. The cost of this violent crime to East St. Louis' families far exceeds any economic benefit that extended club hours might bring.

In his speech, Parks apparently said, "In the '80's, East St. Louis was known as 'East Boogie,'" and argued that he wants to build an entertainment district that does not shut down at 3 a.m. on the weekends, sending business to St. Louis and other surrounding communities.

In a recent interview with Daily RFT, Parks -- discussing a concealed-carry law that Illinois will likely soon adopt -- tells us that there have been notable improvements in public safety at nightclubs in East St. Louis. Continued crime prevention is a priority, he said.

Still, in outlining his new economic plan for East St. Louis, it appears that the mayor hopes to expand this industry.

News reports from yesteday say that Parks has since backed off of his specific call for new 24-hour licenses for nightclubs, but is still committed to an improved entertainment district and nightlife in East St. Louis.

It's unclear at this point what the scope of his nightlife expansion plan is and Parks has not responded to several requests for comment from Daily RFT. We'll update if we hear back.

In the meantime, here is a copy of the full press announcement and critical letter from Durbin and Kelly urging Parks to drop plans for extended hours:

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - In a letter to East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks and members of the East St. Louis City Council, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly today said that extending night club hours in East St. Louis will increase the risk of violence and killings while undermining federal law enforcement efforts that Durbin has fought to bring to East St. Louis. Their letter was sent following a report by the Belleville News-Democrat that the East St. Louis City Council is prepared to vote on a proposal that would allow nightclubs in the city to remain open 24-hours. The text of the letter is below . June 20, 2013 Alvin L. Parks Jr. Mayor City of East St. Louis 301 River Park Drive East St. Louis, IL 62201

Dear Mayor Parks:

Last June the East St. Louis City Council voted in favor of an ordinance that limited the operating hours of nightclubs that had long been hubs of criminal activity, murder and violence. While crime remains a serious challenge, this ordinance was a much-needed step that has helped reduce crime and make East St. Louis a safer place in the year since it took effect.

Progress has been made in recent months in rebuilding public safety institutions in East St. Louis and surrounding communities, but there is a long way to go. That's why it is shocking and disappointing that you are now proposing to abandon existing closing hours for nightclubs in the city. Allowing these nightclubs to stay open all night will increase the risk of violence and killings. The cost of this violent crime to East St. Louis' families far exceeds any economic benefit that extended club hours might bring.

Further, we have long urged federal and state law enforcement agencies to step up to help combat violent crime in East St. Louis, and they have devoted significant resources to this effort. We do not want their contributions to be undermined by ill-conceived proposals to keep nightclubs open at all hours. These federal and state resources are stretched thin as it is. Your own police department's resources are stretched thin.

We have spoken with many residents of East St. Louis who live in daily fear of violent crime, and we have committed that we will do all we can to help reduce this crime. It is because of that commitment that we express our strong opposition to your proposal to abandon reasonable nightclub closing hours. Real, sustainable economic development will come to East St. Louis only once public safety comes to East St. Louis. We urge you to withdraw this proposal, and should you press forward with it, we urge the City Council to vote it down.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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