EAST ST. LOUIS — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly on Thursday voiced "strong opposition" to a proposal to once again allow all-night clubs in East St. Louis.
Durbin and Kelly voiced their concern in a letter to Mayor Alvin Parks and members of the City Council.
Parks said Thursday he's received the letter, but declined to comment on it. Parks said he's proceeding with plans to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 26 on the proposal.
Parks and a majority of City Council members have proposed creating an entertainment district called the River's Edge Entertainment District. They propose lifting the current nightclub closing times, which are 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. Those hours were put in place about a year ago due to pressure from police, prosecutors and lawmakers, including Durbin.
In their letter, Durbin and Kelly said the reduced bar hours were "a much-needed step that has helped reduce crime and make East St. Louis a safer place in the year since it took effect."
They added: "Progress has been made in recent months in rebuilding public safety institutions in East St. Louis and surrounding communities, but there is a long way to go. That's why it is shocking and disappointing that you are now proposing to abandon existing closing hours for nightclubs in the city."
Durbin and Kelly said they have "strong opposition to your proposal to abandon reasonable nightclub closing hours."
Parks maintains that the entertainment district would mean much-needed revenue in the city's coffers. Parks said people like the nightlife, they like to boogie.
"In the '80s, East St. Louis was known as East Boogie," Parks said.
Since the city started closing liquor businesses at 3 a.m. on weekends, he said people and their money leave East St. Louis and go to St. Louis and other surrounding communities such as Brooklyn and Venice for nightlife. He said he wants the atmosphere to return to his city.
But Durbin and Kelly say real money that can help East St. Louis will only come when the businesses and customers feel safe.
"Real, sustainable economic development will come to East St. Louis once public safety comes to East St. Louis," the Durbin-Kelly letter states.
Durbin and Kelly, in the letter, told Parks they've spoken with many East St. Louis residents who "live in daily fear" of violent crime. They also reminded Parks of significant resources from federal and state police agencies which have been devoted to helping fight crime in the city.
"We do not want their contributions to be undermined by ill-conceived proposals to keep nightclubs open at all hours," the letter states. "These federal and state resources are stretched thin as it is. Your own police department's resources are stretched thin."
City Council member Emeka Jackson-Hicks created the legislation that limited club hours. She said she had been bombarded with calls from citizens complaining about the shootings and killings in and around the city's nightclubs. She said she felt that something needed to be done to get a handle on crime in the city.
Jackson -Hicks said as city leaders she believes "it is our jobs to make the city as safe as we possibly can."