Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is Social House The Bad Guy?

Social House held a forum last night for Soulard residents to address "recent crime in the area." I assume this stance was the idea or their lawyer. If Social House wants to succeed in Soulard, I would suggest they tell him his ideas are stupid more often. For the most part, the "forum" was a huge waste of time. However, I was lucky enough to get to stay around and talk with some residents and members of the ownership team at Social House. By "lucky enough" I mean there were still t-ravs, delicious crackers and Bud Selects to be had.

I'm not a reporter so, I won't try to chronicle the forum like I am.  Here are some quick hits:

  • April Trupiano seemed to be interrogating people as they walked in, asking "Are you a resident?" I think she may have meant well by not wanting it to turn into a media circus, but it didn't sit well with some.
  • A friend of the shooting victim gave his account of the night.  Here's what I remember:
    • The victim walked out of Social House with two friends. The friends, brothers. were bickering about whether or not to go to the East Side. A random female who had "lost her ride" approached the victim and ended up sitting in his truck when he agreed to get her home. After she was in the truck, two black men approached the victim and words were exchanged. It was then that the two men fired shots and walked off as the brothers ran to help their friend.
    • The two off-duty cops were inside the bar clearing the bar. They heard that there was a shooting and they went to the victim.  A bouncer at Social House, who served in the Army as a Medic, went to the victim to do what he could.
  • The GM of the bar, Rob Olsen, gave out his email address and cell phone number for residents to call, anytime. In my opinion, Rob and Tony Trupiano should have been allowed to handle the forum themselves.  Both were well spoken and likable.
  • According to the GM, about 40 people were in the bar around close, including two professional football players.
  • One of the best quotes of the night came from a minority owner in the bar. Someone asked why Social House doesn't just close at 1am.  His response?  The city would lose tax money.  Seriously.  I'd like to thing he just misspoke, but who knows.
  • The slant of the meeting appeared to be that "crime is everywhere in the area and that's why we are having this forum."
  • According to Social House, most of the people in the bar after 1am have been drinking at other establishments and those that are too intoxicated are turned away.
  • Social House spends $13,000/ month on added security.
  • Social House has recently hired a valet company owned by a cop on busy nights.
  • Social House says they have gone to the city several times asking for help in securing the city lot between them at Market Lofts
  • Social House has reached out to Franco and Market Lofts to work on security in the area. 
  • More cameras are being installed inside Social House and on the perimeter.
After the forum, I talked with Tony Trupiano for awhile with a group of residents.  Great guy.  Here are some hits from that:

  • I wondered why the secondary officers were brought inside around closing time.  He brought up an interesting point: There is an issue with what the liability is for the officers and the bar if they were to respond to something in the area while they were being paid by Social House. 
  • Plans are in the works to redo the bathroom area and put in some more televisions to make the place more inviting for lunch and happy hour.
  • They try to be respectful with their "Bodypaint days".  The woman who does the painting has worked for Maxim in the past.
  • A lot of family members are involved in the bar and frequent it, including the younger generation of the family.
  • Tony is listening to what music is being played and will stop a DJ or the jukebox from pushing things too far.
  • The dress code for most nights prohibits hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants among other things.
  • Tony is very interested in becoming more involved in Soulard and improving their social media and marketing.  He wants to move towards promoting their happy hour and lunches more rather than pushing the "Biggest Party In St. Louis" stuff.
Here are a couple of ideas I shared with the owners and staff:

  • Secondary Officers need to be outside around close keeping an eye on patrons leaving.
  • Work on becoming a better neighbor to Soulard.
Later on in the night, I got the chance to talk to someone who lives in the Market Lofts and remembers the night well.  Here's some of what they had to say:

  • Woke up to the sound of a verbal argument on the street.  Looked out to see a Orange Dodge Charger parked in the street on the intersection of Carroll and 8th with a door open.   ***Update: The witness actually did not see who fired the gun shots.  They saw a crowd disperse after gun shots and then someone speed off in the Charger and one man run off.  I apologize for the error.
  • The witness ran downstairs with towels and helped the Social House Bouncer attend to the victim.
  • The witness also said the every week there seems to be enough of an issue to wake them up around closing time.  Last week, they saw someone fire a gun towards a group of people standing near Social House
That account seems to call into question the information that Social House has.  I will update that account with more information, either from a police report or further information from the witness.

I don't intend to make this post an attack on Social House.  I also don't intend for it to be something saying Social House doesn't need to be blamed.  Although I have been working out, I will not be getting body painted anytime soon, nor am I on the payroll.

The General Manager, Rob, will be in attendance at the SRG meeting this Wednesday. Please take the time to think things through before attending the meeting.  Please read my previous post on the Neighborhood Forum and think about the questions I posed. How much responsibility does Social House deserve for the crime?  Will closing Social House solve things?  Is it possible for Social House to cater to a different clientele and will that fix things?

If you have input on this, please comment, especially any insight on the issue with the secondary officers.