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CWE Residents Vent Frustration Over New Lester's

Contentious public meeting held Sept. 1

The second floor patio at Lester’s in the Central West End is one bone of contention with neighborhood residents. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
September 07, 2011
A Sept. 1 public meeting about Lester's on Maryland Avenue became so contentious local police were called, city officials said.

About 60 local residents gathered at Bar Italia in the Central West End (CWE) to voice their concerns on the aesthetic appeal of the new sports bar and grill at 4651 Maryland Avenue. A representative of Lester's, 28th Ward Alderman Lyda Krewson and Betsy Bradley, director of the St. Louis Cultural Resources Office, also were in attendance.

"It got fairly heated," said CWE resident Alex Pearson.

Tension grew at the meeting as CWE residents voiced their key issues of concern with the restaurant, including:

photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
• the dark orange color of the restaurant's side addition;

• the metal material of the side addition;

• the 7-foot statue of Stan Musial in front of the tavern;

• the television sets and noise from patrons on the restaurant's second floor outdoor patio; and

• the litter and weeds in the restaurant's alley and parking lot.

The main protest from the neighbors, of the 4500 and 4600 blocks of Maryland Avenue near the restaurant, centered around Lester's overall modern appearance – which they say does not match the rest of the architecture in the historical district.

"We want (the district) to retain its character," Pearson said. "This is a residential neighborhood with kids and families. We want to have businesses here and we want them to do well, but we also want to make sure it doesn't become a strip mall where people are getting drunk."

He added that local business owners' voices have been given precedence over the CWE neighbors.

Multiple public hearings have been held about Lester's, and city officials approved the restaurant's plans last fall.

But CWE residents remain unhappy. They say the tavern's addition does not match the more than 100-year-old brick of the rest of the existing building, and its dark orange hue was not approved by the CWE's historic preservation board. Krewson confirmed that the board did not approve the color. In Lester's original plans, a deeper orange color that would better blend in with the existing building's brick was approved, she said.

However, Krewson did contend the restaurant received proper approval – more than 50 percent of the surrounding neighbors' signatures – to gain a liquor license. If there are issues, those residents within the 350-foot circle of the restaurant can protest the license, she said.

For those concerned with noise pollution from the new tavern, Krewson said the televisions on the rooftop patio do not have sound.

Neighbors also disagree with the proposed chain link fence – rather than a wooden one that would match the rest of the district's fences – to block the restaurant's alley and trash receptacles.

Krewson said she would continue to work with residents on the concerns and she believes they can come to a resolution.

A representative of Lester's also stated the restaurant's staff is willing to work with the neighborhood on the issues.

Pearson said residents left the meeting still frustrated that there was "no real movement" by Lester's or city officials on their concerns.

He said the group hopes to form a Maryland Avenue Association "to get a unified voice together and represent ourselves more clearly."

Lester's opened on Maryland Avenue in the Central West End on Aug. 31. There are two other locations – in Chesterfield and Ladue.

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