Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mardi Gras is All About the Benjamins

The Soulard Mardi Gras - the largest Mardi Gras celebration on the planet - will offer the cheapest alcoholic drinks in the country during the March 5, 2011 Grand Parade Day event.

For example, during the 2010 Grand Parade Day celebration, one vendor sold 16 oz cups of beer for a mere $5.00, and 32 oz souvenir cups sold for $9.00, with a refill for a paltry $8.00. The souvenir cups are exotic, hand made plastic steins suitable for recycling or for placement on your bureau to hold loose change. These cheapies symbolize the sophistication of the biggest municipally sponsored drunk.

Also in 2010 a vendor offered hurricane souvenir 32 oz cups went for $12, with a refill priced at a reasonable $10, and you could get a 16 oz cup of hurricane for $6.00. Can you say greedy?

We don’t know what the charges are going to be in 2011, but we bet they aren’t going to be any lower. Of course, partygoers can bring their own alcoholic beverages to the Grand Parade Day, except that Mardi Gras Inc., event organizer, hires an army of people to maintain a picket line around the area to prevent this.

A number of bars only hang on because of their mg take, so one of the main functions of MGI is to reduce competition. Let’s be truthful: booze sales are the only thing that drives the Soulard mg, although it is sold as a "spontaneous" party with neighborhood folks "inviting" the rest of the world to participate, just one of the lies MGI nourishes to disguise the fact that it is only about money.

Truth be told, mg seems to be the only growth industry in St. Louis, a reflection on our political leadership, but an explanation as to why this dangerous debacle is encouraged. By coincidence, MGI seems to be having stomach troubles. The cut to outside neighborhood organizations, who have traditionally operated booths selling food and alcoholic beverages, has been reduced to 15 percent from the 25 percent of 2010. By squeezing rewards to outside neighborhoods, more money can be channeled to political and administrative pockets.

So our suggestion is: if you are going to blow your money during this ugly mess, then search out neighborhood booths, such as the Benton Park booth. And good luck. Remember, police protection is spread really thin, and large numbers of participants leave their manners at home, something which becomes obvious after they have a couple of drinks.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rib America Returns to St. Louis

"Summer staple Rib America returns to downtown St. Louis May 27 - 30 with Puddle of Mudd, Kansas, Montrose, Candlebox, .38 Special and several more acts," read the Feb, 15, 2011 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Kevin C. Johnson, pop music critic.

The traveling festival will be hosted at Soldiers Memorial Field, just north of St. Louis City Hall, and is presented by U. S. Cellular. The article stated: "Admission is free before 5 p.m. May 27 and before 1 p.m. the rest of the dates. Admission is $6.00 after 5 p.m. on May 27 and after 1 p.m. the other days. Children 12 and under get in free," according to the article.

The 2010 Memorial Day Rib America event was reviewed by Paul Kjorlie, pop music critic for Soulard. His review was titled "Let’s Run the 2011 Rib America out-of-town" and subtitled "Rib America is a consumer rip-off." Following is his review from last year:

Would you pay $90 for two plates of ribs ?

For 7 hours, on Sunday, while at my part-time job at a parking lot, near Rib America; I saw, first-hand how Rib America rips-off people. One older man parked on our lot (a $5 charge) and said he wanted to get some ribs for Memorial Day weekend. He came back, a short time later, with this account: He went to one of the vendors and ordered two plates of ribs. He was told the cost was $54. He was shocked but still handed the person the money - but was told he had to pay with tickets. He went to buy the tickets and was then told he had to buy $80 worth. Shouldn't they be happy with just gouging him for the $54, and not want to squeeze him for even more ? Note: He had already paid $5 for admission that afternoon. In the past, that charge started at 5 P.M.. That charge was instituted after many people came just to hear the has-been bands in the evening and didn't buy food. With these prices, they must have paid aging rocker Bret Michaels, who just had a "warning stroke," a lot - to tempt him to risk his health to perform against his doctors wishes.

Needless to say, this veteran (I assumed, since he was wearing one of those battleship hats.) left hungry. Even though it was against our company policy, I refunded his parking fee - since I had no intention of being a party to ripping off this veteran, anymore, on Memorial Day. That's not how we should honor our soldiers.

Ticket Policy is a Scam

One would think that they would be happy with charging $54 for two plates of ribs. However, like our Fair St. Louis had done recently, you get fewer tickets than what you pay for. I believe Fair St. Louis explained their con as "administrative costs". Also, all their prices at Rib America are apparently in odd numbers - so you are left with small amounts of worthless tickets that won't buy anything. One young college couple told me that they begged the Gus's Pretzels vendor to take only 3 tickets, rather than the 4, for a small bag of pretzel sticks.

Rib America reflects poorly on our city

The above veteran wasn't the only one to leave disappointed. A group of Hispanics arrived by van and asked what the event was. I told them and they said, "Great, we're starving !" They came back shortly and didn't say a thing as they probably left for a fast food joint. Our parking lot did well by turning over parking spaces several times. As the hungry and disappointed left, their parking spaces were quickly replaced by new suckers. I guess, by now, most St. Louisans know enough to avoid the event. One person, from Ohio, said to me a bit angrily, "So this is how St. Louis does it ?". I tried to tell him that Rib America is a national thing that travels all over our country scamming people, like the Snake Oil Salesmen of the old west - but he was in no mood to hear my defense of my city.

Attendees are in "lock down"

The college couple also explained that they were told that there were no stamping of hands if they wanted to leave the event. They said they wanted to check out downtown St. Louis but were prevented from doing so. However, they did say they enjoyed the has-been bands for only $5. Some downtown businesses might have benefitted from increased business if the attendees were allowed to leave and avoid repaying a re-admission charge.

Our local St. Louis media aids this rip off

Every year, St. Louis media touts this event as something to do. Local TV stations show mouth-watering visions of ribs on their HDTV broadcasts. (By the way, I had no idea food could look so good on TV until I got my first HDTV a few months ago.) Our lame media doesn't even warn people that they should bring lots and lots of money. They only seem to mention the $5 admission charge which is just a beginning of bad things to happen to ones wallet. Restaurant reviewers usually always mention cost - but festival reviewers don't. Shame on them for wasting many peoples time and gasoline.

A doomed enterprise?

One would think that, after years of ripping people off, that Rib America will meet the same, well-deserved demise as our corrupt local bankrupt auto-warrantor U.S. Fidelis. Apparently, as P.T. Barnum once said, "There is a sucker born every minute." However, apparently this years event only had 8, or so, vendors. Is it the bad economy or vendor disenchantment over not winning one of the hundreds of cooking trophies on display? Will Rib America die of its own greed? We can only hope so.

St. Louis can do better

Hey, is St. Louis so desperate for something to do, on of all holidays, Memorial Day that we tolerate having our pockets picked by transients? Why not encourage people to patronize one of the events at local non-profits, like the Greekfest? Baklavas not your style? Then why don't we have local promoters organize a St. Louis Ribfest that promotes our local barbecue joints ? St. Louis isn't the barbecue waste land that it was when I moved here over 30 years ago. We now have some deserving local BBQ joints that need our encouragement. Come on, city leaders, let's show some leadership here. The long term benefits to our city by having year-round profitable BBQ establishments will outweigh any short term flirtations with traveling con men.

Questions for Mayor Slay

Some of my cynical friends have said that the City of St. Louis has its own "hands in the till, also." Is that true, Mayor Slay? Just how much revenue does this event bring into the city? I'm sure, as wise money handlers, that our city officials collect permits and fees from Rib America - in addition to sales taxes paid by the promoter. After all, they do have the use of closed city streets and the park areas north of City Hall. Just what does the city charge them, Mayor Slay? While we are on the subject, just what does the city take in from our other festivals - like Mardi Gras and others?

Final question, Mayor Slay: Is all of this ill-will created by Rib America and resulting bad impressions of St. Louis worth it? Is this an event we want on the day we honor our veterans? Is that why they sacrificed - so some of their country men can rip-off citizens?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress in Historic Soulard

We were so impressed when we read this item in the December 8, 2010 Soulard Restoration Group Board of Directors minutes:

"Sultry Donuts - William Billiter is requesting a letter of support from the SRG for a variance for occupancy permit. No liquor license being sought. Darcy Thomas - Studio Durham Architects was also present. Billiter wants to ‘bring Johnny’s feel to donut shop.’ They will offer fresh pastries, donuts brought in, coffee, juice, boxed lunches and soft drinks. The wateriness (sic) (waitresses?) will be scantily clad wearing lingerie, bikini’s (sic) and theme outfits. There were several questions about location, reason for the business and what kind of neighbour (sic) he will be. Billiter and Thomas were very willing to answer any and all questions about the possible business. Billiter has no plans at this time to serve alcohol. A motion was made by Billy Tomber to vote to provide Sultry Donuts with a letter of support on behalf of the SRG to change their variance from residential to commercial in order to obtain an occupancy permit. Motion was seconded by Jim Price. The motioned (sic) failed 5-2. Michael Pastore motioned that the SRG write a letter to P. Young and William Billiter stating that the SRG cannot support the opening of Sultry Donuts as presented. The motion was seconded by Dave Perry. Motioned (sic) passed unanimously with two abstained."

Other board members present included: Sean Cochran, Paul Sharp and Sherry Ruebusch. According to the minutes, Jay Morris and Roger Power arrived late, and Alice Stellhorn was not present.

What impressed us was the fact that a titty donut shop has been suggested as a contributing business in our historic district. What a wonderful way to further exploit and degrade what used to hold promise as a nice residential area.

But you cannot fight city hall - in all its ignorance - so we applaud Billy Tomber and Jim Price for their far sighted support of this project. As everybody knows, Jim blandly sells insurance and Billy edits The Soulard Renaissance, the neighborhood newspaper you see scattered all over the streets. We only wish that Billy would step up and take credit for his vision of the future of Soulard - as ground zero for a titty donut shop empire spanning the globe. If only he would print a story or a picture of himself in The Soulard Renaissance, so we could get to know him better, so we could gain further insight into his intellect, such as it is.