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Smoking ban can’t come soon enough for one St. Louis family

November 17, 2009 Downtown, Real Estate, Smoke Free 36 Comments

I often get emails from people wanting me to bring attention a problem/dispute they are having.    Such was the case on November 7th:

I live in the Jack Thompson Lofts on the top floor above Club Lure. I live with my girlfriend and her [9 year-old] daughter and the smoke from the bar engulfs us every weekend. The condo assc. meet with the bar a couple of times and request smoke eaters. They agree to install them months ago but it never happened. Now they just ignore us.

“Engulfs?”Many people tend to exaggerate or twist facts to get the media on their side.  I ended up emailing with both of them, learning more about their situation.  I emailed some smoke-free friends that suggested they look here and here (pdf) for help.  I was interested in sharing their story and I could have shared it just based on their accounts.From their descriptions I could tell their situation was real and they were not just playing me.  But I knew it was best if I visited them in person to see for myself.  Before I get to my visit let me explain the building.

The Jack Thompson Square building is located at the Southwest corner of Tucker & Washington Ave (map).

Washington Ave facade of the Jack Thompson Square building
Washington Ave facade of the Jack Thompson Square building

The ground floor is Lure Nightclub.  Floors 2-4 are offices, mostly for Kwame Building Group, the developer of the building.  You may recognize the name Kwame — they were part of the Cross County Collaborative that won a lawsuit with Metro over the extension of our MetroLink system.  The club and the offices share the Washington Ave entrance.

The 5th floor contains four condos while the 6th floor has four 2-story units.  The 8 residential condos have a separate entrance at the rear of the building facing narrow St. Charles St.

entrance to Jack Thompson lofts
entrance to Jack Thompson lofts

That first weekend we couldn’t find a time to meet.  The problem, they explained, was worst between 1am and 8am.  I knew I’d need to alter my schedule to verify their claim.

So last Friday night I went to their condo located at Tucker & Washington Ave at 1am (technically Saturday morning).  I had never been in the residential part of this building.  Like most, the lobby contains a mail center and an elevator.  But this resident lobby contained something I’ve seen in no other: massive amounts of cigarette smoke.

Jack Thompson Lofts lobby
Jack Thompson Lofts lobby

This is basically the size of the lobby.  The elevator is to the left and the mailboxes are just beyond that.  Behind me to the right is a door to a hallway which leads to the back emergency exit for Lure Nightclub.

Typically in these buildings the commercial spaces are kept separate from the resident spaces.  However, it is common to permit emergency egress through an otherwise resident-only space.  The club’s exit door is at the end on the left in the above image.

We took the elevator up to the top — the 6th floor.  I was so bothered by the lobby smoke their hall seemed refreshing.  We peaked into the emergency staircase.

The stair leads up to the roof.  The bedrooms/bathrooms for the four 6th floor units are located on the 7th floor.  A former opening from the stairwell is adjacent to her daughter’s bathroom.  Each Friday & Saturday night the smoke makes its way up the stairwell forcing them to run the exhaust fan in her bathroom.

This couple’s unit is in the middle of the floor.  They said the neighbor with the entrance opposite the elevator (above) gets smoke through the elevator shaft.

From the shared hall I could see the intersection of Tucker (12th) and Washington Ave.

Their loft was very nice.  I didn’t even attempt the spiral stair but we talked for about 15 minutes.  Their windows which face West were closed but I could hear the music from the club below — we are on the 6th floor!

Heading back down the hall to the elevator I could now smell the smoke on their floor. Coming off the elevator into the lobby I was again confronted by the visible smoke.  Just then a young man exited the club into the resident lobby to talk on his phone.  I can’t imagine putting up with 1) this smoke and 2) having strangers in what should be secured space.

I emailed both Lure and Kwame Sunday morning requesting a response to the claim they are ignoring requests from loft owner’s to remedy the situation.  This couple and her daughter moved in a year ago after she bought the condo.   Their first night in  their new home a fight broke out in the club that spilled out into their lobby.  I’vc never been to Lure but here is how they describe themselves:

Located in the heart of downtown, Lure nightclub is one of the most popular places in Saint Louis. Lure nightclub has become the place where the “A” list crowd goes to unwind, to dance, or just have a drink. Every night Lure attracts beautiful crowds by the sweet smell of sophistication, class and style. The beauty of this magnificent ultra lounge is supplemented by the house groves, European bottle service and party people. This chic ultra lounge keeps finger on the pulse of socialite demands with modern decor, sexy lighting, and DJs spinning the best in hip hop, top 40 and house.

As of January 2, 2011 Lure will be smoke-free but that is more than 13 months away.  When the weather is warm the problem is not as bad because the club runs the air conditioning system.  The couple tried a petition to revoke the club’s liquor license but they couldn’t even sign it themselves:

The Excise Division has a procedure wherein the property owners, registered voters and business owners within a 350 feet circular radius of the proposed premises can protest the issuance, renewal or continuation of a liquor license and seek administrative review.

Apparently the Excise Division has an unwritten rule limiting protesters to the first few floors of a building.  Second floor residents of The Meridian building across Tucker can protest Lure’s license but none of the residents in the same structure can.  That just doesn’t seem right.

Lure needs to contain the smoke within it’s space.  The developer of the building,  which owns the space Lure leases, needs to correct any deficiencies that allow the smoke from one space to enter another.  The emergency exit at Lure needs a panic alarm so the door is used only in actual emergency situations.  Club patrons should not have access to the resident portion of the building unless they are exiting the club in a true emergency.

Hopefully these parties can resolve this awful situation prior to the start of the indoor smoke-free law on January 2, 2011.

Addendum: as I wrote this piece over the weekend I sent out many emails.  Monday morning at 9:15am I got a call from Kwame’s President/CEO Tony Thompson.  He indicated he was unaware of the problem and would get his building management staff on the issue right away.  But within the last year the condo association met with Lure’s manager and Tony’s brother Ty. We’ll see, hopefully a resolution is coming soon.

I also learned that 7th Ward Alderman Phyllis Young introduced BB240 on 11/13/09 that would revise the city’s excise ordinance. Language in this bill would still mean these residents have no say:

No portion of a building shall be considered to be within the petition circle other than the main or surface floor of such building, the two floors immediately above the main or surface floor, and the floor immediately below the main or surface floor.

That is fine for adjacent buildings within the 350ft radius, but not for the subject building.

UPDATE: 11/17/09 @ 12:15pm – I just received a phone call from Lure’s manager, Tony Tribiani. He said he and Kwame’s Ty Thompson have met with the association he says he can’t afford the equipment to eat the smoke.  He says the couple shouldn’t have bought a condo located over a nightclub.  Furthermore, what I saw, smelled and coughed on was not smoke — it was fog created by hazers that weekend.  Yeah right I can tell the difference between fog and cigarette smoke..

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "36 comments" on this Article:

  1. generalsn says:

    ASH has proven that smoke can kill in 1/2 hour. How can anyone there still be alive?

     
  2. That's horrible.

    I wish there was something we could do – nobody should have to live in those conditions because a nightclub doesn't care for the other building tennants.

     
  3. Jane says:

    Unbelievable. However, it is also not surprising. Lure and its management will do nothing since their profits far outweigh the health of the residents. I find it appalling that legally there is nothing that can be done to protect the family. I also am awaiting the comments that will say this family deserves it since they moved into a building with a bar. But I don't believe that to be true either. They did not move into the second floor, but rather 5 stories above the bar. Smokers have the “right” to smoke. I get that. But I should also be able to control my own health. I can smell smoke if the car in front of me is smoking when I drive down the road. There need to be limits on smoking, since it endangers others' health. I am so excited that the smoking ban was passed.

     
    • The club manager asked them why they moved in over a bar. As you note, they are many floors up. Home buyers do not view for sale properties at 1am on weekends.

       
    • tonypalazzolo says:

      Well Jane – why would they purchase a condo and then complain about the smoke. I agree that Lure should do something, but the people did buy the condo and now are complaining. If situation is that bad, then they would have smelled the smoke at any time of the day. Why would they buy if they thought it would be an issue. They should take responsibility for themselves and quit whining. Depending on the size of Lure, they could be stuck with the smoke for a very long time. Even if they are covered by the ban, I'm sure smoking will won't stop. Remember, its the health department that has to police this ban and they won't be working past 5pm M – F.

       
      • If they would have viewed the unit/building at 8am on a Saturday or Sunday I would agree it would have been noticeable. But had they looked at the building later in the week it would not have been obvious. They may have smelled smoke but just thought a smoker had walked though the area with smoke on their clothes.

         
  4. holmants says:

    “Lure needs to contain the smoke within it’s space”

    So what happens in January 2011 when all these people are smoking on the sidewalk and it comes in their window?

     
    • Their unit has windows on the 6th & 7th floors overlooking the roof of the building to the West. I doubt any smoke would make it to their windows even if the sidewalk was jammed with smokers.

       
    • Steven Smith says:

      I live above my bar where the peeps are now asked to step outside for a square. There is no comparison on the air quality when smoke hits the open air to that in an enclosed building. I can smell the cigarettes among the many smells of the city, but really it is nothing even close to oppressive density of massive indoor bar smoke.

      How is business people ask? Not a hit at all. A boon. It is best to embrace the reality of the future than the shrill rejection of what will be. That is smart business. And even now, when the whole city goes smoke free far more will benefit even in the bar business. Now is to do a hurry up on that 5 year deadline to start enforcement next spring and to get the casino rackets in line with the law.

       
    • matthb says:

      The whole smoking outside thing is largely a myth. Most people smoking in bars are doing so socially and because the environment fully supports it and encourages it. Its not like 100% of the smokers and smoke will move outside. Go to cities that have smoking bans and there are surprisingly few people outside smoking even on a nice night.

       
      • Steven Smith says:

        People will smoke less, but I still find an inordinate number of cigarette butts outside my joint.

         
  5. stlstadtroller says:

    I find Lure's description too wordy. Allow me to paraphrase into a nice little soundbyte for them: “Lure – THE place for the descriminating d-bag.”

     
  6. Brian S. says:

    That description of Lure is hilarious.

     
  7. JZ71 says:

    Multiple issues here, and none new. Being young and single and living above a bar can be cool, and getting older and more settled can change that perspective. It kinda boils down to should the family move someplace quieter or should the club move? I don't have the answer, you either “put up and shut up” or you “fight for your 'rights'”, on either side – it's the big downside to mixed use and higher densities (and why suburbs appeal to many folks).

    As for “Lure needs to contain the smoke within it’s space”, it ain't gonna happen, it needs to be exhausted somewhere, probably, and ideally, up to roof level, and not at street level. Yes, either the club or “The developer of the building, which owns the space Lure leases, needs to correct any deficiencies that allow the smoke from one space to enter another.” But to expect the club to not have fresh air come in and smokey air go out is both naieve and ludicrous, no matter how much anyone dislikes smokers.

    And yes, “The emergency exit at Lure needs a panic alarm so the door is used only in actual emergency situations. Club patrons should not have access to the resident portion of the building unless they are exiting the club in a true emergency.” The current arrangement creates a real security issue for the residents of the building, assuming they were promised a “secure” building to live in . . .

     
  8. megamike says:

    Hey Steve
    heading for the beach house in Florida next week than back to STL in the spring..Florida has a total state no smoking ban..and you know what? people still go out and party in Florida..how bout that??

     
    • tonypalazzolo says:

      Florida bans it in essentially restaurants. Bars, bowling alleys etc are excluded from the ban. I guess people still do go and party in Florida.

       
      • Steven Smith says:

        It is smoke free everywhere in California, and has been for about a decade. I can guarantee you people still party their ass off in California. Relentless. It is just normal to have everything smoke free when you are inside. It ain't that big of deal.

         
  9. billhannegan says:

    How big is the club? If it is under 2000 sq. ft., not including kitchen, restrooms and storage areas, it will be allowed smoking until 2016.

    I am sure the couple will also make noise complaints when drinking smokers are sent to the sidewalk.

     
  10. billhannegan says:

    If this establishment had decent air filtration, a smoke problem wouldn't exist.

     
    • Todd says:

      As you may recall, the owner of the offending club refused to install such a system. In any event, with the passage of the recent smoking bans, such systems will be irrelevant.

       
      • billhannegan says:

        We have a legal challenge ready to go that should knock down the St. Louis City smoking ban altogether, we hope. If the challenge fails, we'll put an exemption for “over 21” venues on the ballot. Since only 24.5 percent of St. Louis City residents favor smoking bans for bars, we have a chance with voters.

        I don't know how big this bar is, but if it is smaller than 2000 sq. ft. excluding kitchen, storage and rest rooms, it can allow smoking for another 6 years.

        Air filtration systems will never be irrelevant in bars. They remove all airborne pathogens and toxins, including radon and swine flu. One St. Louis doctor told me he would worry more about influenza in a crowded bar than secondhand smoke.
        http://www.scribd.com/doc/16200312/Swine-Flu-Te

         
  11. Washington ave resident says:

    It's not the smoke from Lure that these people should be worried about… It's the frequent shootings, stabbings, and fights that occur each weekend from the d-bags that go there. Flying lead has a much higher toxicity than cigarette smoke or even the “foggers” that people use on Halloween for lighting when it comes in contact with a human. Check out the crime map for the past month and see how many assaults, weapons violations, fights, etc were reported at 12th and Washington. First it was Lucky's, then it was Lure, seriously, these people do not know how to run a nightclub. No wonder they can't afford proper filtration equipment, because they don't know what they are doing.

     
    • statisticsarecool says:

      On average about 30,000 people in the USA die of a gunshot in the US annually, more than half of which is suicide(about 60%, or 16,500). In the USA the annual deaths caused by lung cancer is about 160,000. Annual deaths caused by emphysema and COPD(chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) about 17,000. Hmmm, my math isn't the best but I think that means that cigarette smoke IS more deadly than a bullet.

       
      • Washington ave resident says:

        Well Duh. However, with these people living above these idiots, the failure of our alderwomen to do anything to abate the behavior of the crowds that constantly fight, shoot, and stab each other down there… something bad is going to happen, and it won't be the smoke. That being said, caveat emptor these people are quite honestly idiots for investing $100,000+ in an apartment in an area they didn't research. Sure their loft is “nice” and all that, until their place gets broken into by a coked out douchebag at 3am or someone shoots into their ceiling at 2:30 am. Quite honestly, their best option is to put the house on the market, take a loss, and move the hell out. They just can't compete with the nightclubs, the aldermen who don't care, and the lack of enforcement at all levels. Oh and good luck staging a protest, you're likely to get shot or beaten up by their “patrons”

         
        • Steven Smith says:

          Wasn't this about smoking? Seem to be separating the issues here.

          Downtown wanted to have businesses and lofts. And now it has multitudes. Good for downtown.

          The smoking is nasty and will stop, but not soon enough and we need to do more.

           
  12. Jason says:

    Not sure how public this couple wants to be, but I'm sure there are organizations that might help them stage a protest in front of the club on a busy Friday or Saturday night. This could be particularly effective given that the club shows no intention of working toward a solution.

    Personally I'd just hire a lawyer and file a nuisance lawsuit against them, especially given their non-caring attitude toward the co-habitants of the building.

     
  13. Jason says:

    Not sure how public this couple wants to be, but I'm sure there are organizations that might help them stage a protest in front of the club on a busy Friday or Saturday night. This could be particularly effective given that the club shows no intention of working toward a solution.

    Personally I'd just hire a lawyer and file a nuisance lawsuit against them, especially given their non-caring attitude toward the co-habitants of the building.

     
  14. mmnewman says:

    Three reactions:

    1. The Kwame people weren't favorite neighbors when I lived downtown. That parking lot on the corner of Tucker and Wash (adjacent to the building in question) was a neighborhood pocket park (loaded with tulips in Spring) before Kwame worked its connections to pave it for a parking lot for the exclusive use of this building. As I understood it, the city owns it, and thanks to Barb Geisman, Kwame gets to use it; they're responsible for maintenance to the lot and to the corner landscaping. I'd love to see a copy of the contract for this deal, along with a list of the contributions Kwame made to Slay that year. Anyway, we (the neighborhood association) had to ask the Thompsons to please maintain the corner landscaping, which they often allowed to get all weedy. I still remember the incredulous look I got from one of the Thompsons when I stopped in their office to ask politely if they would please weed the corner lot as they had agreed. It was all WHO are you and WHAT are you asking us to do? And then they ignored us.

    2. It's a travesty that Phyllis wants to officially exclude residents above the 3rd floor from liquor license petitions. Any downtown resident will tell you they are affected even at the 8th floor, which is where I lived and listened to the club spillout at 3 a.m. from half a block away on Locust. Where are the downtown residents? They need to get loud on this.

    3. Kudos to Steve Smith for embracing the future. The Royale truly gets it.

    Margie

     
    • billhannegan says:

      “Any downtown resident will tell you they are affected even at the 8th floor, which is where I lived and listened to the club spillout at 3 a.m. from half a block away on Locust.”

      Things won't get any better when the smoking ban puts people on the streets all night long.

       
    • billhannegan says:

      How does Phyllis Young justify put a smoking ban on bars in her ward but voting against Alderman Triplett's amendment to include the casinos.

       
    • Steven Smith says:

      Yeah, but downtown was able to keep Nelly from opening a nightclub, so I wouldn't sweat the liquor license laws in terms of the plat. The laws seem to work pretty good at keeping Nelly out of downtown. After all it wasn't the law that kept him out of downtown it was the residents.

      Liquor license laws definitely can effectively drive businesses away depending on how the neighborhood and/or Alderman respond.

      Thank you for your kind words about the Royale. How is Chicago treating you? I have noticed excellent enforcement of smoke free in all the flavors of bars in Chicago, but we need some help in downstate. Downstate needs a lot of help.

       
  15. billhannegan says:

    The Kirkwood smoking ban starts in January. It will be interesting to see the effect on bars there.

     
  16. Would you have issue with smoking at the clubs on Washington Avenue a decade or so ago before loft conversions began?

     
  17. Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,

     
  18. Washington Ave. Resident says:

    Shouldn't be a problem now… City looks like it's shutting that hole of a club down.
    Oh… and Told you so.

     

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