Have you heard about the latest attempt to make St. Louis more relevant on the national scene? This one is called Rally St. Louis, and according to its website, it is a “first-of-its-kind crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platform that generates ideas and uses funding from the region’s residents and then uses those ideas to help market greater Saint Louis.”
Aaron Perlut, owner of the downtown marketing firm Elasticity, and his partner are the driving forces behind Rally St. Louis. You might recognize his name from a blog post that he wrote for Forbes earlier this year entitled "St. Louis Doesn't Suck." Of Rally St. Louis, he tells the Post-Dispatch, “If nothing else, it will be an interesting social experiment.”
Oh boy. While common folk are supposed to generate the cash and the ideas to make Rally St. Louis successful, the opening salvo of cash has come from Lou Fusz Automotive, CKE Restaurants Inc. (parent firm of Hardee’s), as well as the Kemper (Commerce Bank) and Taylor (Enterprise Rent-A-Car) family foundations. Maybe this will be a big hit. But St. Louis doesn’t need social media driven fads or the worthless excitement generated by thousands of Twitter hits, with nothing to back them up.
St. Louis needs to be notorious. St. Louis needs to stand out for more of the wrong reasons.
I’m more interested in the Trupiano siblings than I am in another cute marketing project backed by old St. Louis money. The owners of Club Amnesia on Washington Avenue and The Social Club in Soulard are facing allegations that someone falsified state tax documents. The Trupianos (Aprille, Tony, and Nick) battled the city last year over the liquor license for Club Lure, which is now Club Amnesia. As a result of violence on Washington Avenue, the city cracked down on Lure. The Trupianos said they were being unfairly targeted (and I agree).
That battle is still in court, but in the meantime Club Amnesia is operating with a liquor license. Possibly not for long. Fuzzy print quality and identical identification numbers on tax documents are part of the alleged tampering, which could bring criminal charges. For their part, the Trupianos are calling it “an internal matter” that will be handled by the club owners.
This is straight out of Boardwalk Empire, and I love it.
We need more Trupiano action, not less. If they are guilty, then prosecute them. But let’s not forget the importance of being “notorious.” Pushing the envelope doesn’t just have to come from genteel conference rooms. It can come from nightclubs and backrooms. You want St. Louis to take off. Well, it won’t come from Forbes blogs or erecting a statue of Jon Hamm on Kiener Plaza. It will take some down and dirty action that draws the attention of not only tourists, but “players.”
Here are my ideas for Rally St. Louis, although I doubt it wants any piece of them.
Follow Colorado and Washington’s example and try to decriminalize marijuana in St. Louis and St. Louis County. Columbia, Mo., has previously taken small steps in this direction. Call Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and tell him we want in on his effort to legalize sports book gambling in his state. Let him know that we want it in St. Louis. Forget the state of Missouri if it doesn’t want to play. Push for legalized online poker and other gambling, too. Institute eternal happy hour in downtown St. Louis. Let’s be known for the cheapest drinks, the longest hours, and the grandest time in the Midwest. And let's bring at least one or two exotic dancing clubs to the west side of the Mississippi River.
These types of entertainment venues don’t draw the wrong type of people. They draw the right kind of people: those that are looking for a fun time and have pockets full of money. If we’re going to make social experiments part of our plan, then let’s stop worrying about offending someone or creating an atmosphere that is anything but “family friendly.” Let's go big.
Commentary by Alvin Reid