Thursday, December 17, 2009

City Licenses: Seeking Enlightenment

The following was recently e-mailed to Mr. Michael McMillan:

Please forward this e-mail to Mr. Michael McMillan, License Collector, City of St. Louis

Dear Mr. McMillan:

On Friday, Dec. 11, 2009 an article titled “Soulard: The Tax Haven Revisited” was posted on a blog labeled Gumbo, the Forum for Soulard at The article contained information about bar/restaurants in the Soulard neighborhood whose property taxes are in arrears or were paid after the deadline. (Please note that this letter is also posted on the blog.)

My understanding is that businesses cannot open their doors and do business unless they have been granted a business license. I understand a business license cannot be issued if the business owes any taxes. Are these understandings correct, or have I misread the laws and ordinances of the City of St. Louis?

I have been approached by several business owners who have paid all their relevant taxes. They want to know why businesses which have not been good citizens - those which have not paid all their taxes - are being subsidized by those who have. They believe an unfair competitive advantage has been created. At what point is a business which has a defective business license - one which does not meet the requirements as defined by laws and ordinances of the City of St. Louis - going to be closed? Are the business licensing laws something to be taken casually here in St. Louis, by both elected officials and businesses?

There are some people in Soulard who feel that there are too many bars/restaurants in the neighborhood. They feel that the large number of these establishments contribute to quality of life problems. Examples of these quality of life issues include increased crime, trash, noise, traffic accidents, vandalism, and others. That some of these establishments remain open when it appears that they have defective licenses suggests favoritism and corruption in City of St. Louis government. They are expected to pay their taxes, their parking tickets, etc., etc., but bars/restaurants which degrade the living experience in the neighborhood seem to get a free pass. Could you please address this concept? Is there any concern by you that residents think favoritism and corruption is an ingredient in St. Louis city government?

I am most interested in hearing from you so that your responses can be published on the blog in order to set the record straight and to calm the fears and anger of some of my fellow citizens. Thank you in advance for your time.

ADDENDUM: The following was attached to the above message and re-sent to The Honorable Michael McMillan on January 4:

Dear Michael McMillan, License Collector, City of St. Louis

This is the second e-mail I have sent you. The first was sent on Dec. 17 to the e-mail address, as directed by your page on the CIN/St. Louis web site. The e-mail seeks information about irregular business licenses in Soulard, as per a story published on the Soulard blog on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009 and titled Soulard: The Tax Haven Revisited. I have not received any answer from you. You may not have been able to find the story due to an error in the blog address. My apologies for the mistake. Thus, I am re-sending the first e-mail to, a different address. I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Soulard: The Tax Haven Revisited

Recently we posted information (Monday, July 6, 2009 titled "When was Soulard declared a Tax Haven? Nobody told Madame Chouteau" and Friday, July 31, 2009 titled "Update on Soulard as a Tax Haven and Our Apologies") about four bar/restaurants in Soulard that were in arrears in their property taxes but were still open, despite the City of St. Louis law which states that property taxes - and other taxes - must be paid up in order for a business to have a valid business license.

Well, we are happy to report that things have changed, in a St. Louis sort of way.

The good news is that McGurks-Soulard LLC, owner of record of the ground under John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub, 1200 Russell Blvd., finally paid their 2008 tax bill of $22,984.72. This was posted on 9/24/2009 on the web site of the Collector of Revenue. Anybody concerned about this late pay should remind themselves that James P. Holloran is listed as agent for the company, and he is a "mover and shaker" here in St. Louis. He is blue blood royalty for what passes as St. Louis society, so he pays his taxes when he damn well feels like it, and the rest of you can just bow and scrape and tug your respective forelocks when he passes..

Next, we turn to Nadine’s Gin Joint. Here we have some real St. Louis type progress. The tax problems, which our research showed and we reported as stretching over three years and amounting to $29,389.34, including penalties, were resolved when the property was sold. It appears that somebody in NTM Partnership LLC, listed as the previous owner, paid taxes and bought out some other owners.

The new owners, who call themselves Missouri Housing Assoc. LLC (created on 10/7/09) and who boast a mailing address at 74 Hester Ct., St. Charles, MO 63304, are listed on the Secretary of State’s web site as Gregory Stephen Wood, Nicole Marie Wood, Benjamin Aaron Scott and Kelly Ann Scott. The property, which had been subdivided under the ownership of NTM Partnership LLC, has the abbreviated property description of Nadine’s Kingdom Subdivision. While welcoming the Woods and Scotts to property ownership in Soulard, we wonder if they are going to change the subdivision description to Woods and Scotts Kingdom.

Interestingly, the new owners have created two parcels out of the property, dividing the tax bill into two pieces. The two tax bills were promptly paid by the new owners, which is a blessing, since the City of St. Louis needs every tax dollar it can get. Previously, we had though that the property had been a beneficiary of a tax cut. We were mistaken. Our apologies for the error, and congratulations to the new owners for paying on time.

From here, the news is not so good. Clementine Inc. owes taxes on 2001-2003 Menard for 2007, 2008 and 2009 in the amount of $15,653.36, as of 12/9/09 from the site of Gregory F. X. Daly, Collector of Revenue. But their doors are still open for business.

And, of course, our eternal favorite, Great Grizzly Blues LLC, owner of the building that homes the Great Grizzly Bear, owes $30,273.72 as of 12/9/09. They are in arrears all the way back to 2006, and there is evidence they also owe for 2005. The address of Great Grizzly Bear is 1027 Geyer. Assessor’s Office records list the owner/owners as living at 2 Clara Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119. Everybody in Soulard is proud to have one of our bar properties owned by somebody from the county, even if they don’t pay their taxes. Us taxpayers really do not mind subsidizing their operation.

Still, we do not understand what is happening. So we have decided to e-mail some questions to the License Collector, Michael McMillan at His web site states: "The City of St. Louis has a responsibility to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. Therefore, the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor enact ordinances that govern operations of businesses that impact the citizens of St. Louis City. State statues and City ordinances give the duty and responsibility to the License Collector of the City of St. Louis to enforce the business license ordinances and statutes."

From their actions - their failure to pay property taxes - Clementines and Great Grizzly are in violation of license requirements. Why are they still open, when their business license applications are defective? Why do you force the rest in the tax-paying community to subsidize their operations? Why are failing businesses - ones which cannot pay their bills - exempted from denial of a business license, while the City of St. Louis expects the rest of us to pay up? Do you not think this undermines confidence in the integrity and competence of City of St. Louis government? We will post any answers we receive from The Honorable Mr. McMillan.

But don’t take our word for any of this. Do your own research, and start by visiting, the site of the City of St. Louis Assessor’s Office. Enter an address and when the property comes up, click on "Tax History Information," which takes you to the page of Gregory F. X. Daly, Collector of Revenue. That page shows tax history, dates of payments and other information. And maybe send an e-mail to Michael McMillan, or Phyllis Young, or Mayor Slay. It is time we stopped being victimized by elected officials. It is time for elected officials to start listening to their respective oaths of office.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crime: Antoine Soulard's Revenge

On Saturday morning, November 28 - the Saturday after Thanksgiving - the number of broken auto windows - evidenced by the piles of windows glass along the road and from the still parked, damaged cars - on Soulard and S. 10th Streets was discomforting. A simple shopping trip to Soulard Farmers’ Market yielded insight into the condition of neighborhood civility.

In front of 1823 S. 10th was a red truck with a broken driver’s side window, and there was a fresh pile of broken glass where an adjoining vehicle would have parked. Across the street in front of 1824 S. 10th was what looked like older broken glass (it was scattered) and an auto with a temporary black plastic bag driver’s side window. Around the corner and in front of 911 Soulard was another car with a broken window, plus two fresh piles of broken window glass in adjoining spaces. Across the street in front of 904 Soulard was an older spread of broken window glass.

It looked like somebody had taken out five windows during the previous night, supplementing evidence of older vandalism in the vicinity. The car in front of 911 Soulard had temporary Colorado plates. Not an auspicious beginning for a new purchase.

What is one to make of this?

In an e-mail blaster message from Terry Hoffman - and copied from Lisa Otke’s blaster message dated Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009 - the weekend before Thanksgiving - the message was:

"Great news from Officer Hickel, Soulard Community Officer.

"Officers caught 4 black males, 17 years old breaking into vehicles on Wednesday night in Soulard. There had several handbags and valuable in the vehicle they were driving which had been stolen earlier in the day. They were responsible for several car break-ins around the area. This should reduce crime in the area!

"Thanks to Officer Hickel for sharing this good news!! Let’s hope we see a reduction of crime for awhile!!

"Have a good week and Happy Thanksgiving!"

The call to celebrate was premature. One could try for some humor and comment that Hi-Tech Security, the "rent-a-cop" company hired with our special business district add-on tax, is hot on restoring neighborhood manners, but it seems that there is nothing humorous - nor effective - about Hi-Tech Security. Two recent stories in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hinted that scandal touches the company, suggesting it suffers from a defective business plan.

Of course, over the last number of years, civility has not been a Soulard trademark. The Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day (and other boozy festivals) promotes Soulard as a place to waste, all in the name of celebrating drunkenness while boosting the bottom lines of area bars and restaurants.

Year around, the patrons of the bars and restaurants do a fine job of leaving a debris trail that helps convey the message that "nobody cares what happens in this neighborhood," the price we pay for the unsought designation from the City of St. Louis of "Entertainment District."

The Soulard Restoration Group, a self-centered collection of poseurs, believes that promoting the party somehow promotes the neighborhood. They effortlessly sidestep the truth that fighting trash, just like fighting crime, requires healthy neighborhood morale and effective leadership. What years ago had been an evolving residential neighborhood has been traded for a "party neighborhood."

So maybe we can see all these broken windows - and a lot of other anti-social events - as "Soulard’s Revenge," as payback from our namesake for directing his neighborhood down the road towards Pigpensville. Random vandalism, occasionally mixed with violence or the threat of violence, coupled with trash, noise, accidents, etc., all the stuff from the police blotter, are "Soulard’s Revenge" for turning a historic residential neighborhood into St. Louis’ Party Neighborhood, as The Riverfront Times labels us.