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Excise Division to Hold Hearing on Qdoba’s ‘Summer Garden’ & ‘Full Drink’ Request

The Qdoba chain’s latest store in the St. Louis region is open at Loughborough Commons. This afternoon the Excise Division will hold a hearing to determine if they should get a “full drink” liquor license and an outdoor “summer garden” permit. While the poor planning at Loughborough Commons disgusts me and I’m not fond of formula chain places I can’t imagine anyone telling them no at this point.


The place is done, including the patio. The outdoor area will soon be ideal for watching those folks driving around the new strip center to order their latte at the Starbuck’s drive-thru window.

What would happen if immediate neighbors all showed up at 2pm protesting the idea of people buying a bud light to go with their burrito? And further yet, drinking said bud on the patio.

So who is the excise division? Well, they are part of the Department of Public Safety — you know that department now headed by Charles Bryson. The DPS website doesn’t tell us much:

Excise Division

6 Employees
Robert W. Kraiberg, Commissioner
The Excise Division is charged by City Charter with the regulation and control of liquor within the City of St. Louis. The Division is responsible for determining licensing in accordance with the City Liquor code, authorizing issuance of all liquor and non-intoxicating beer licenses, enforcement of City Liquor Laws and Ordinances and initiation of civil action to suspend, cancel or revoke licenses when violations to statutes occur.

That cannot be the extent of information about liquor licenses? So I went back to the main city site and used the search field. This is what I got:

The default is to search stlouis.missouri.org — the “CIN Main Site” or I could search stlcin.missouri.org which is a bit more descriptive. The third option is to the search the internet which we all can easily do from our browsers anyway. I picked the default and basically found press release information — even though press releases are found in the second search option according to the search page. So, I selected the second option and there I found a FAQ page on Liquor licenses. Why this is not linked directly from the Excise Division/Department of Public Safety site I don’t know.


So we see a full drink license “cannot be issued if the surrounding neighborhood disapproves.” Gee, define surrounding. It seems they have a “formal procedure” that can only be obtained via a phone call from 8-5 Monday through Friday. I’d say secret procedure is more like it.  You know I think this whole web thing might actually take off so it would be OK to invest in getting more and more information available to the public via the internet.

People want solutions so here we go.  Explain the types of licenses in greater detail, linking to the appropriate ordinance(s).  Make the necessary forms available online as editable-PDF documents.  Explain the formal procedure so that everyone applying for a license, as well as neighbors, know the same rules.  List who makes the decision and what their criteria is.   Are these people appointed, elected or staff?

Back to Qdoba for some final thoughts.  A chain place can afford to build out a full establishment on the assumption that nobody will object to their having a liquor license and a patio permit.  I know I certainly don’t object — a few beers will likely make Loughborough Commons more tolerable.  But the local person seeking to open an establishment can’t afford such a proposition.  Can they get necessary approvals before spending their life savings on a building or lease space?  Without the finished space the neighbors might have concerns about what is planned.  Without the liquor and/or patio license up front a lender might see the proposition as too risky.
I may need to visit City Hall Room 416 today at 2pm to find out more.


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. LisaS says:

    The local restaurants I work with typically write their leases as contingent on zoning approval. Many times, we don’t even proceed past schematic design prior to the first hearing–alcohol is that critical to restaurant pro formas. And the process has killed more than one project.

    I was trying to find the Conditional Use Hearing Agenda for this week on the web site … no luck. It would be nice to know the order so I would know if it’s okay to be late …. it would be nice to know if a couple of projects here in the neighborhood on are the agenda so I can plan to attend those …. To the City’s credit, the State appointed school board is worse–they post their meetings 24 hours in advance (less than that on the web site), which meets the letter of the law but who can reshuffle their lives at that kind of notice? It’s difficult to be a pesky–excuse me, I meant involved citizen without inside knowledge and a lot of free time.

    The only web site I use on a regular basis with a worse search function than City government: the Post-Dispatch. Half the time it won’t find the story unless I enter the entire headline …. very irritating.

  2. Jim Zavist says:

    One, I agree the process is flawed and needs to be a lot more open. Two, I’m not too worried about Qdoba – all they want to do is sell margaritas to enjoy with their food, not become a rockin’, late-night hang-out. And three, you’re right, there are very few immediate neighbors to object to (or support) the request.

  3. independent says:

    On a recent trip to a downtown LA Qdoba, they did not serve beer. Meanwhile, the new Collinsville Walmart and Home Depot Center with a Qdoba does serve beer. So it looks like they’ll work it either way. The signature process for obtaining liquor licenses is well known. Ask any NSO, neighborhood association president, or alderman. They can tell you all about it.

    [SLP — Well, at midnight last night I didn’t think Ald Kirner would appreciate a phone call from me.  Or would it make more sense to call the alderman for the area in question?  And does someone just getting elected as neighborhood president all of a sudden become blessed with the knowledge of this?  Are all these people incapable of typing out the process on a web page and uploading a few forms for easy access?]

  4. independent says:

    No, they’re not incapable of it, they just don’t believe it’s necessary. Has anyone hear ever met Bob Kraiberg? He’s the real authority on this subject. He’s must have seen a thousand of these signature petitions. It’s all very old skool. I’m guessing that at Holly Hills and other Carondelet neighborhood meetings, the planned Qdoba has been mentioned several times, with much support behind it, so the petition requirement would be a slam dunk. Qdoba does way more than 50% of their gross in food sales, so most neighbors would be happy. Getting a name chain is seen as a “win” by lots of of conservative southsiders, as does getting a modern, suburban strip center. Now, try opening a corner tavern in a vacant old bar, located in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, and that will generate lots of controversy. That’s just the way it is.

  5. Joe Frank says:

    I think I may have been the author of that A-to-Z topics page on Liquor Licenses originally, although it may also have been one of our interns. I’d agree it should be linked from the extremely brief description of the Excise Division, and you’ll notice it does link the other way.

    It’s difficult for the city’s tiny web development staff to get info out there on every department, unless and until the department requests it.

    As for the search page… at least at the time, that was all you could get for free from Google. To search more than one server simultaneously, you have to pay for the service. Similarly, the “search the Internet” radio-button option is a mandatory Google feature. It’s still greatly improved from the old HTDig search engine we had used for years prior to that.

    Incidentally, I didn’t find any press releases on Liquor on either site. The pages you found are probably from the Newsgram, the city employee newsletter now available in an online-only format. At least there’s some cost-savings involved — although I understand many departments where internet access is not available to every employee actually print it out and make copies!

  6. What kind of City resident would want to sit on a “patio” looking out at this lack of planning when there are so many great vibrant streets, with patios, that have excellent views of the urban landscape?

    [SLP — I’m personally looking forward to the matching patio on the opposite end for Starbuck’s.  From there I will be able to get a good count on the number of pedestrians entering/exiting Loughborough Commons.  Given the configuration of the auto drives I think I might even be able to see a fender bender or two.]

  7. BeanCounter says:

    It’s weird that the FAQ says the neighborhood accepts or rejects a full Liquor license; only a 300 ft parameter is the neighborhood. I live down the street from the Tin Can and 3 Monkeys and was petitioned for both. In the literature I was sent it said all residents and business owners within 300 ft. of the location could approve or reject the petition.

    My block Captain who lives 8 or 9 houses away didn’t receive a notice. I did some math with 20ft wide lots and found a max of 15 lots in each direction would be the neighborhood. Take into account streets/alleys and irregular lots and it could be as little as 7 lots. Now that is a small neighborhood.

    I can’t imagine many people live within 300 ft. of Quadoba.

  8. Steven Smith says:

    The site is not as detailed, but the process is very, very in the favor of being fully open, accessible, and with input. It is probably the most open and thorough process in the city.

    An application is made and within I think 45 days you need to:
    50% of voters/licensed businesses in 250ft(I think that is the distance)
    and 50% of property owners.

    All addresses get a postcard informing of the application prior to the signature process. Alderman, Police Captain and NSO are notified.

    Signs are posted at the property making the application.

    Then if the signatures are met- and this is by no means an easy process- many don’t get this far, but then a hearing is set. Then another round of postcards go out to everyone on the hearing.

    Anyone can show up to the hearing and protest the application. There restrictions can be placed upon the license. This is a harsh, harsh time in which all sorts of odd things can be done to restrict a license. Then they take every bit of information and prints and such from you. You also need to go through a criminal check.

    If a place is sold, this process starts again. Licenses are non-transferable. Even if there is a 5% change in ownership, the application starts over again. So the argument that “what if this guys sells to a dirtbag?” doesn’t hold up. The new owner must apply for a license all over again.

    The process to shut down a place is easier than this process. It is set up this way to favor the residents.

  9. mayor says:

    “It is set up this way to favor the residents.” Does anyone have a problem with that approach? The neighbors were there first.

    [SLP — Well, it depends.  If it is based on 50% of land owners than I suppose Desco could override immediate residents if they actually opposed the sale of liquor.  Who represents the city with respect to the public park?  Would a locally owned restaurant going in the same location and selling the same percentage of food be treated equally as a chain?]

  10. Steven Smith says:

    It is per parcel, so Desco would only count as one property.

    The treatment for corporate to independent would be the same in the city licensing. For the residents it would be case by case. Some love chains, others not so much.

    Were the residents there first? Well, it is hard to say. My home has always housed a tavern, well since prohibition, and actually maybe before.

    The process does favor the residents and they have an incredible amount of influence in licensing if they work together.

    [SLP — Actually Loughborough Commons is legally multiple parcels with easements granted for access across other parcels.]

  11. Frank says:

    Funny enough, I actually spent a good part of last week doing my research on liquor licenses. I will agree that the infomation on the web is pretty bad. I ended up calling up the excise commission and the guy on the other end said to just “come on down” and he could explain everything better. I did and he gave me the rundown in plain english about how the process goes. It’s just about exactly the same as the one that Steven Smith explained but it’s 350 feet and you also have to get a certain percentage of registered voters. Also, the city comes by once you have made your initial request and puts a series of signs on your building saying when and where the hearing will be.

    You do have a good point though about the Qdoba. The 350 foot plat around the Qdoba might only include the landlords, other businesses in the complex and one or two residences that live nearby.

    Sitting where I am, it’s kind of scary. I’m not at all worried about getting a majority of voters, businesses and residents, I’m worried about a protest.


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