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City, Club Lure make their cases over nightclub's liquor license

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The two sides in the fight over a downtown night spot were in front of a judge Friday to outline their case.

City prosecutors are trying to strip Club Lure, at 1204 Washington, of its liquor license, citing violence, indecent behavior, and documentation problems such as failure to conduct criminal background checks on employees and update the employment list with the city.

Several police officers who have patrolled the downtown entertainment district told Judge Margaret Walsh about breaking up fights outside the club, writing tickets for littering and public drunkenness, and dealing with traffic issues on the streets outside the club. Earl Westfall, who lives with his girlfriend in the lofts above the club, told Judge Walsh about the club's failure to leave its fire exit locked from the outside. He would often, he said, feel threatened by Lure patrons who lingered in the lobby that was supposed to be for residents only.

Jennifer Gray, who lived in the building across the street from Lure, said she moved to south St. Louis because of the noise and violence connected to the club. The chaos that would start about 2:30 every morning was entertaining, she said, until she witnessed a man started driving around the block while shooting.

Club owner Aprille Trupiano, Gray said, is an irresponsible business owner.

"I see these things on the news, I'm hearing the things on discussions boards, and I'm here because I find it appalling that this place is still in business," she said.

In her testimony, Trupiano said the shooting incident took place before Lure opened its doors. And the other incidents, she said, could not be traced directly back to Lure.

That was a point Lure's attorney, former mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., made often during a full day of testimony. Just because something happened outside the club, he said, does not mean patrons were involved.

"You got a lady riding down the street, sees some people, gets out of the car with a bat, and starts fighting some folks," Bosley said. "The lady didn't come out of Lure, where'd she come from? That's one of the chief charges in the case. We've got another charge in this case about an incident that happened on a night when the club wasn't even open? So does that get attributed to Lure too?" The city dropped the charge in question - a shooting on Nov. 5, 2009.

Trupiano and Bosley also said that Lure has responded to the city's concerns and made several changes, including moving a valet stand to reduce traffic. Two other clubs were also facing sanctions from the city, but have been cooperating, though none of the details were put in writing.

Judge Margaret Walsh is not expected to issue her ruling for several weeks. Several downtown residents - many of whom spoke Friday - have launched a petition effort to demand a hearing on Lure's liquor license.