ST. LOUIS — A judge has told a St. Louis business it has 60 days to fix its issues that neighbors said are dragging the community down.
West End Market sits near the corner of Hodiamont Tracks and Union Boulevard. For years, it's been the source of trouble for neighbors.
"(Loiterers) beg all day, just to drink all day while I'm at work," a frustrated neighbor testified during a hearing at City Hall on Thursday morning.
"(There's) all kinds of activity going on, from drug sales on the side of the building to fights. You name it I've seen it," another man testified.
"(There's) shootings, robberies, loitering, trash," Rhonda V Jones said. She's a realtor and works with the Academy Sherman Park Neighborhood Association. Her home of 22 years is a few blocks up the road from the nuisance business. She said she's worked hard to maintain the home that's been in her family for 70 years.
"We are trying to improve our neighborhood, make it a good place to live, work and play," Jones said. "As well as increase our property values so we are competitive with the other side of Delmar."
The store's attorney, Jay Kanzler, says the business has been in the community for 50 years and wants to stay here. They want to work with community leaders to find ways to continue to make the neighborhood a better place. He says the owner maintains his lot and the city-owned lot to the west of the business. Kanzler said a lot of the loiterers migrate from several empty lots to the east.
"The best-case scenario is the community work with the business," the attorney said. "If there are concerns that both work together to resolve that. The market wants to stay here, they don't want to be in a neighborhood that doesn't want them. There hasn't been a shooting, robbery, a murder in or around this market."
Kanzler said the owner of the market wants to be a part of rebuilding the community. If neighbors don't want the business there the owner is open to a buyout.
St. Louis Metro Police pulled 25 calls for service at the store in the past 12 months. Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard said she's found 75 calls in the past year and a half. Documents show some of those calls came from the business itself.
"If you are running a market, run a market. All we ask is if his liquor license not be renewed," the Alderwoman said. "So that we can have the opportunity over there to clean up the area like we've been trying to do."
The judge granted the store a 60-day continuance on their license. They are ordered to open an hour later and close an hour earlier, maintain the litter a block in every direction and hire security.
The Alderwoman said she plans on holding the business accountable.
"It makes me want to fight, not just for my family but all of the constituents and families that are impacted by this West End Market," she said.
Area leaders and neighbors aren't against the business, just the environment it brings to the neighborhood on the verge of flourishing.
Jones is happy leaders are stepping up and change is soon.
"I really feel like we were delayed, not denied," Jones said.
Jones said she would like businesses that fit the mold of the community to move in. Grocery stores or markets, restaurants and small businesses are invited to set up shop and help the Academy Sherman Park Neighborhood grow.