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Crime-plagued St. Paul bar is shut down by the city

It follows a violent year in and around the Alamo bar.
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What's happening?

St. Paul City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to revoke the license of the El Alamo bar at 429 Robert Street South in Saint Paul.

It follows a public hearing last week in which the Pioneer Press reports local residents, neighborhood groups and businesses told council members about the gun violence plaguing the establishment.

Why is it being shut down?

It comes after a particularly bad year for reports of crime at the bar.

According to a report presented to the council on Wednesday, the bar started running into regulatory problems in 2013, four years after opening.

Then in the first 11 months of 2017, police were called to the bar on 33 occasions for the following reasons:

  • Six calls for discharge of a weapon.
  • Five aggravated assaults.
  • One robbery
  • Two reports of an intoxicated person.
  • 19 calls for disturbance of the peace.

Things got particularly bad in the early hours of Sept. 9, 2017, when police responding to shots fired at the bar ended up recovering 45 bullet casings after gunmen had a shoot-out in front of the entrance and in the parking lot.

"City officials concluded that lapses by El Alamo’s security staff had contributed to the outbreak of violence," the report says, also revealing previous violations with regards to its surveillance systems.

One nearby resident, Jessica Lakis, wrote to the council, saying she has been living near the bar for three-and-a-half years.

The mother of an almost-2-year-old son said that during that time her house has been hit by four stray bullets on three separate occasions.

Another letter stated that children are afraid to walk past the bar on their way home, while among the businesses complaining was El Burrito Mercado, which wrote to "express our immense concern for the continued acts of violence and human endangerment at or near Alamo."

Some offered support

While there were complaints from neighboring residents and groups, a number of patrons of the bar wrote to the council in support of it.

"The issue is not with the bar, but the teenagers/young adults that hang out in the area!" Jeremy Hoke wrote to the council. "I for one, have never had an issue at El Alamo. Inside or Out."

"It is upsetting and frustrating that a few incidents or people can make outside people judge the bar or customers of the bar," Joe Smith, an El Alamo worker, wrote, adding: "The Alamo is a GREAT bar with all kinds of customers from different walks of life."

The Pioneer Press notes that owner Harry Erkenbrack apologized to the council in last week's meeting and said he was trying to sell the bar.

But after the license was revoked – not suspended as originally predicted – the attorney for El Alamo LLC said it's likely the decision will be challenged.

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