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Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

May 4, 2021 Featured, Local Business, Metro East, St. Charles County, Travel Comments Off on Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

We knew Saturday would be a gorgeous day so we decided to drive up the Great River Road along the Mississippi River north of Alton IL. Our first stop would be a favorite, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. We knew it had been cited for Covid violations in October 2020:

A longtime and popular restaurant in Alton was recently cited for not complying with COVID-19 restrictions in the area.

Illinois State Police said based on a complaint, they did a COVID-19 compliance check on Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. Officers issued a notice of non-compliance to the manager on duty and advised them on a time frame to get into compliance, police said.

After about an hour, Illinois State Police officers returned and issued a dispersal order and then after another 30 minutes, officers returned and issued a Madison County non-traffic complaint. Police said the manager signed and accepted the written complaint on behalf of Fast Eddie’s. (KSDK)

That was over six months ago, they likely learned how to comply. Or so I thought. I was thinking maybe tables wouldn’t be spaced as far apart as they should be for proper social distancing. We’re both fully vaccinated so I thought we could take a chance.

We arrived before they opened so we’d be among the first to enter. This photo was taken at 10:55am, 5 minutes before the door was unlocked.

We were the third group in the door, but our order number was 2nd. A long line of bikers was behind us. Inside I got us a table while my husband ordered.

As I waited I began noticing how different this was than every other restaurant we’d patronized during the pandemic:

  • No employees are wearing masks. Not our drink server, not the manager walking around, not anyone behind the counter.
  • Customers are walking around inside without masks. No mask while ordering, finding a table, going to the bathroom, picking up their order.
  • Only a few other customers wore a mask.

I told my husband we had to eat quickly and leave. Had we not left quickly I’d have likely confronted the manager, which would have ruined the day we had planned.

Here’s a few pics from the rest of the beautiful day.

Downtown Alton IL is so charming, wonderful scale and the hills create interesting views. Click image for Downtown Alton website.
Next we drove through the historic village of Elsah IL– one of our favorites. Click image for Elsah tourism info.
We stopped at the Elsah General Store and got some baked goods for dessert, ate them outside. The shop owner wore a mask. They even accepted payment via ApplePay! Yes, click the image to view their website & hours.
When we reached the free Brussels Ferry we crossed the Illinois River. This ferry is operated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Click image for more information.
I’ve done this trip numerous times over the last 30 years, but this was the first time I went a few miles out of our way to see Brussels IL. This is the village hall. Click the image to see the Wikipedia page, learn things like it was founded in 1822!
We continued driving through Calhoun County IL until we reached the Golden Eagle Ferry to cross the Mississippi River into St. Charles County MO. Click image for more information.
New Town at St. Charles was an easy stop as we headed for I-370. As predicted, it looks much better now that the trees have matured. Click the image for the official New Town website.

At the end of our day we stopped at a convenience store near New Town. The employee and some fellow customers were wearing masks, but customers came & went without any masks.

The pandemic is still going on, people are still getting sick & dying.

— Steve Patterson


Restaurant Space Available In Historic Union Market

January 28, 2019 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Local Business Comments Off on Restaurant Space Available In Historic Union Market

Union Market, North Broadway,  is an interesting building.

Union Market in February 2010. New floors were added for hotel rooms.

It is considered a local landmark.

Mauran, Russell and Crowell designed the market in a Eclectic Revival Style in 1924.

One of only four extant market buildings remaining in St. Louis, Union Market was constructed in 1924-25 as the city´s largest, most architecturally significant and functionally progressive market. Occupying a full city block, the building´s strong presence and individuality are established by bold rhythms of large Gothic arches and battered buttressing at the lower stories. Speckled buff brick curtain walls are handsomely accented by horizontal bands of terra cotta ornament. The three-story garage above the market space was one of the City´s early indoor parking facilities.   For over five decades, Union Market has served as one of the City´s two principal markets and has continued a tradition of marketing established on the same site during the Civil War.  Union Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (St. Louis City Landmark #103)

More on the building, including pre-hotel photos on the early 80s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. As a public market, it was a failure (read nomination). It’s had a tough life, see timeline and lease battle details.

On December 31, 2018 the hotel restaurant, J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant, closed after 28 years.

J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant will close after service on Dec. 31, owner Joe Sanfilippo announced Tuesday. The restaurant has operated inside the Drury Inn & Suites at 705 North Broadway downtown since February 1991. Sanfilippo tells Off the Menu a number of factors went into the decision to close, including the departure of major companies from downtown over the years to the arrival this decade of Ballpark Village. (Post-Dispatch)

No doubt the reduction of the downtown workforce, Ballpark Village, and fewer conventions have had an impact. My only time in this building was on Saturday April 21, 2012 — for dinner solo using a Groupon.

At 7:22pm I took this photo of the empty 80s looking dining room.
At 7:50pm I photographed my pasta con broccoli.
And at 8:10pm I photographed my dessert.

As I recall, the food & service met or exceeded my expectations. The place just felt dated…bad 80s dated. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t close earlier than NYE. I wish them the best of luck at their Chesterfield location.

The closed J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant earlier this month

I do hope someone will open a new restaurant in this space — after changing the interior. XFL games begin in one year.

— Steve Patterson








Sunday Poll: Will Schnucks Be Too Dominant After Buying 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations?

September 23, 2018 Featured, Local Business, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will Schnucks Be Too Dominant After Buying 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations?
Please vote below

Our local grocery scene continues to change, from last week:

Shop ‘n Save is checking out of the grocery-store business in the St. Louis region.

Schnucks Markets is purchasing 19 area Shop ‘n Save groceries owned by parent company SuperValu and will rebrand them as Schnucks stores. The remaining 17 Shop ‘n Save locations will close if SuperValu is unable to find a buyer by the end of the year.

The acquisition will boost the number of Schnucks grocery stores by 20 percent. Fifteen of the stores include pharmacies, which will also be purchased and run by Schnucks. (St. Louis Public Radio)

I was here in 1995 when Schnucks bought National Supermarkets from Canadian-based Loblaws, earlier grocery stores were before I arrived:

A previous merger in 1970 had seen Schnucks acquire the Bettendorf-Rapp chain of grocery stores—temporarily forming the Schnucks-Bettendorf’s chain (a joke was that an initially proposed name for the merged company was “Schnuckendorfs”) until the latter half of the combined name was dropped a couple of years later—just as Bettendorf’s had swallowed up the Rapp chain of stores to form Bettendorf-Rapp’s in the 1960s. Schnucks underwent a major expansion in 1995 when it purchased from Loblaws the National Supermarkets chain, also based in St. Louis.

Schnucks’ growth in the St. Louis area was bolstered by the local abandonment of two major supermarket chains: A&P in the 1970s, and Kroger in 1986. (Wikipedia)

This week’s poll is about Schnucks buying 19 Shop ‘n Save stores:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson


Our First Visit to Mau Haus Cat Cafe & Lounge

April 13, 2018 Featured, Local Business, Retail, St. Louis County Comments Off on Our First Visit to Mau Haus Cat Cafe & Lounge

Last weekend David and I were going to be in Maplewood, so we decided to visit Mau Haus — a cat cafe & lounge. We have some food & beverage while spending an hour in a room with 18 cats and about 15 strangers. It was a wonderful time, we’re ready to go back. You’re probably asking yourself what a cat cafe is…

A cat cafe is a combination of all things good; cats, coffee, and a relaxing cafe environment. You can relax and pet cats, and it’s great socialization for them too! The cats are adoptable, which means if you fall in love, you can apply to take them home!

A cat cafe is perfect for cat lovers who need a feline fix. Whether you can’t have cats at home, or you’ve already got some and are looking for more, we’ve always got great cats here!

We partner with Stray Haven Rescue for all adoptable cats at the cafe. All cats are up to date on shots, spayed / neutered, and microchipped. Learn more about their mission and how you can get involved here. (Mau Haus contact page)

The space is a typical urban corner storefront. Because they don’t wan the cats to get out the old main entrance is now an emergency exit only. The side entry is the only public entry — and it’s wheelchair accessible. There are no cats in the ordering section or kitchen. After you’ve signed the waiver, ordered, and space is available you go through the double door vestibule into the main area.

Inside Mau Haus the cats can climb on many areas designed just for them
This is Loreli — one of two resident cats. Click image to see the adoptable cats and Loreli’s brother Taylor — he’s huge!
The bookcase wall lacks books but it does have steps and holes for the cats
While she were there one cat climbed way up top by the front window
David takung a pic of one cat that jumped up on our table.
Crates near the entrance had new adoptable cats getting acclimated ro other cats, humans, etc.

Mau Haus is located at 3101 Sutton Blvd in Maplewood.  Note that reservations are recommended:

Reservations to spend time in the cafe are highly encouraged. We do allow walk-ins, but it’s likely that you will have to wait for a spot to open up. There is a minimum spend or donation of $5 for all walk ins. A reservation ensures that there will be a spot waiting for you!

There is a $10 per person reservation fee that gets you an hour in the lounge. It helps us cover the cost of maintaining the cat lounge and caring for the cats. As a bonus, you will get a free beverage (per person) and 20% off any food or additional beverages purchased. (Man Haus reservations page)

Just being in this space with strangers and lots of friendly cats was very relaxing, we’re looking forward to going again. We told our neighbor down the hall when we saw them at the elevator. Her first question was “does it smell?” No, the entire place smells like any cafe and the place was just as clean.

— Steve Patterson


Meeting Rapper Killer Mike’s $100 Challenge In St. Louis

I first learned about rapper Killer Mike during the 2016 presidential primary, see At a Bernie Sanders rally, an Atlanta rapper makes his political debut and How Killer Mike Became Rap’s Most Influential Political Leader. So it was no surprise he was part of an MTV/BET town hall last month. He suggested to everyone there and watching, to invest in black-owned banks — and many have responded:

Citizens Trust Bank — anchored in metro Atlanta, Columbus, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Eutaw, Ala. — said it has received about 8,000 new applications for depositors in recent days.

One of the catalysts: Rapper Killer Mike called in to a town hall meeting on MTV and BET on July 8 to implore the black community to deploy “a portion” of its financial resources to make a difference.

He wants 1 million people to deposit $100 apiece in small black-owned banks or credit unions, believing that those financial institutions will be more likely than other banks to make loans to black citizens and businesses — and more likely to treat them fairly in general. (USA Today: Black-owned banks get rush of new depositors)

The above linked to a VH1 story:

During the event, radio personality Charlamagne spoke with rapper Killer Mike on economic solutions for the Black community. “We can’t go out in the street and start bombing, shooting, and killing, Mike preaches. “I encourage none of us to engage in acts of violence. I encourage to take our warfare to financial institutions.”

The rapper proposes that we all should take a portion of our money and “put it into a small black bank or credit union” and watch it accumulate over the next few years. His proposal: for 1 million people to start a $100 account with any Black-owned bank. The result: it gives these small banks the ability to give out small home and business loans for areas that are being gentrified, so Black families don’t get pushed out and their businesses can thrive. (VH1: This Major Star Agrees with Killer Mike’s Economic Solution)

This made perfect sense to me, so I thought I’d see about opening an account at a black-owned bank in St. Louis. The VH1 article provide a link to make it easy to support such a bank, which led me to:

There are 22 African American owned banks (AAOBs) with assets totaling approximately $4.6 billion in assets or approximately 0.43 percent of African America’s $1.1 trillion in buying power. (HBCU Money’s 2016 African American Owned Bank Directory)

Their criteria is based on 51% ownership, here are their key findings:

  • “AAOBs are in 17 states and territories. Key states absent are Florida, Mississippi, New York, and Ohio.
  • Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, and Wisconsin each have two AAOBs.2016 Median AAOBs Aseets: $107 551 000 ($113 470 000)*
  • Average AAOBs Assets: $210 292 000 ($233 583 000)*
  • African American bank assets saw a 1.2 percent decrease or net loss of approximately $57 million in assets in 2015.
  • AAOBs control 0.03 percent of America’s $15.7 trillion Bank Owned Assets.
  • AAOBs control 2.3 percent of FDIC designated Minority-Owned Bank Assets, which is down from 2.6 percent in 2015.
  • There has not been an AAOB started in 16 years.
  • Only 8 of 2016’s 22 AAOBs saw increases in assets.
  • For comparison, Asian American Owned Banks have approximately $46.1 billion in assets spread over 68 institutions. They control 6.0 percent of Asian America’s buying power.
    *Previous year in parentheses”

What about in St. Louis? Nada. the nearest are two options in Chicago: ISF Bank/Illinois Service Federal Savings & Loan Association and Seaway Bank & Trust, founded in 1934 & 1965, respectively.

The USA Today article linked to the Federal Reserve’s Minority-Owned Depository Institutions:

Total number of institutions 156
Total assets (thousands $) $131,324,491
Total deposits (thousands $) $107,712,933

Number of institutions by minority code (Min Cd)
1 Black or African American 23
5 Caucasian Women 6
10 Hispanic American 29
20 Asian or Pacific Islander American 61
30 Native American or Alaskan Native American 18
31 Multi-Racial American 1
32 Min Board & Serving African American Community 1
33 Min Board & Serving Hispanic Community 4
34 Min Board & Serving Asian or Pacific Islander Community 9
35 Min Board & Serving Native Am or Alaskan Native Am Community 0
36 Min Board & Serving Multi-Racial Community 2
39 Low Income Credit Union 2
Total 156

With 156 institutions one must be located in St. Louis, right? Nope.

In the entire state of Missouri here are the Minority institutions:

  • Liberty Bank & Trust: 2 locations in Kansas City
  • Central Bank of Kansas City: 2 locations in Kansas City
  • Peoples Bank: Seneca & Joplin, MO

St. Louis did have a local black-owned bank for 44 years, from 1965-2009:

Gateway Bank was established in 1965 on Union Blvd., near Natural Bridge, as the first black-owned and -operated bank in Missouri. In response to the 1963 civil-rights protests of Jefferson Bank & Trust Co.’s refusal to hire blacks, co-founder C. W. Gates and his family committed to providing banking services and loans indiscriminately to the community of North St. Louis.

“Over the years, Gateway took local deposits and made loans in a neighborhood where few other banks focused,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of the NAACP St. Louis City.

In 2009, the bank failed under the recession, was taken over by the FDIC, and was sold to Central Bank of Kansas City. For the past three years, Central Bank was managing the bank’s $12 million in deposits and about $13 million in assets. Yet earlier this year, Central Bank received permission from the FDIC to permanently close the location in October 2012, arguing that they couldn’t find a buyer to keep the bank open.
(St. Louis American: Gateway Bank Saved)

Gateway Bank was formed after the 1963 Jefferson Bank Protest.  I used to pass Gateway Bank while riding my bike to work further North on Union Blvd in the late 90s — I was unaware of its history.

Gateway Bank under construction
Gateway Bank under construction

However, this isn’t the end of the story.

In 2012, St. Louis Community Credit Union announced plans to save Gateway Bank by purchasing the existing land. The building was demolished in 2015. With the help of additional funding from a Community Development Block Grant, as well as support from the City of St. Louis, Stifel Bank & Trust, the St. Louis City NAACP, TIAA Direct
and others, St. Louis Community Credit Union built a new state-of-the art facility on the original site, while still preserving the great heritage of Gateway Bank.
Many of Gateway’s traditions continue in the new financial institution. It opened in March 2016. (gatewayslccu.com)

Will I be going here to open a new account? No, because I’ve already been a member of St. Louis Community Credit Union since 2010. We got our car loan there in 2014 and will get another in late 2017/early 2018.

Last week I took the #04 MetroBus to see the new Gateway branch.

The New Gateway at 3412 N. Union Boulevard, click image for map
The New Gateway at 3412 N. Union Boulevard, click image for map
An updated version of the classic Gateway Bank sign is in the lobby. Much more historical documentation (photos, brochures) are on display
An updated version of the classic Gateway Bank sign is in the lobby. Much more historical documentation (photos, brochures) are on display

The following hour plus video was produced in 2015 to look back at the history of Gateway, here is a list of the people interviewed:

  • Russel Little, Sr., former Gateway shareholder
  • Barbara Harness, Gateway SVP of operations
  • Mike McMillan. Urban League
  • Thomas L. Mines, Gateway employee 1968-1975
  • Dr. John A Wright, Educator/Historian/Author
  • Delores Jones, former Gateway employee, now a St. Louis Community Credit Union employee
  • Letrissa Bennet, former Gateway employee, now a St. Louis Community Credit Union employee
  • Lisa Gates, daughter of Gateway xo-founder CW Gates and former employee

I listened to the entire video, very interesting. If your among the many who are unbanked in St. Louis or your money is elsewhere, please talk to St. Louis Community Credit Union.

— Steve Patterson