NEAR NORTH RIVERFRONT – Every Tuesday at 6 a.m., Kenneth Gardner, owner of KJ’s on Broadway Bar & Grille at 5300 N. Broadway, gets his weekly delivery of alcohol and supplies. He usually stays at his establishment until 2 p.m., preparing himself for the night ahead of him.
Some of St. Louis’ most underrated nightlife gems have been on the north side. In the daytime, they stand quietly among businesses and gas stations on streets from KJ’s on Broadway to the Grand Zodiac Lounge at 3517 N. Grand Blvd. near Natural Bridge Avenue. At night, they become havens of entertainment and social life, with cars parked along streets and around every corner.
But some people, despite being of legal drinking age in Missouri, can’t walk into certain bars. Of the 11 bars on the north side, four have signs notifying potential patrons of higher minimum age limits. Those bars cater to older crowds through music and atmosphere.
KJ’s on Broadway is one of those bars, restricting its patrons to people 30 and above. The Zodiac Lounge requires its patrons to be at least 35.
“When you start getting older, you want to go out, have a good time, and be safe,” said Eddie Martin, a Zodiac Lounge patron. “Youngsters’ mentality is that they go out with any expectation of what their day might be. … At any given time, they can go south on me.”
North-side nightlife has been somewhat bleak because of the numerous factors that can cause a Saturday night to go awry. Most bars for millennials and younger generations are in Downtown, in south St. Louis and in St. Louis County with nightclubs such as Mystic in Florissant. There have been multiple shootings and other dangerous altercations at nightclubs and bars across the St. Louis area.
“Once you begin to cater to these young folks, you’re creating a problem for yourself, because they bring chaos,” former Zodiac Lounge bartender Eddie Taylor said. “Back then, we could go from bar to bar all night. Now I wouldn’t do that after dark.”
“Most of the bars on this side here that catered to the young are out of business,” said Bryan Young, another Zodiac Lounge patron. “You have this faction not liking the other faction; next thing you know, you have all of these shootings and fights going on.”
One north-side bar open to people as young as 21 is The Nation Bar and Grille at 6013 Natural Bridge Ave. The bar started in 2017 as a project by two brothers who wanted to create a bar for families and friends. The new spot understands what is at risk when having a great time on the north side.
“We don’t really have a problem with younger folks,” said the bar’s manager, David Washington. “We have the Sheriff’s department as security, St. Louis police department as security, and people are checked outside before they get in. Fortunately, we never had any incident. They know that it’s a family environment, and the atmosphere that matters here.”
The Nation’s success in being open to ages 21 and up with no reported incidents offers hope for area residents who want to invest their social life and money into their neighborhood.
But for the moment, to enjoy all of what the north side has to offer at night, some may need to wait a few years until they’re 30 – or older.