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Shop til you drop? Not for teens on weekends at Mid Rivers Mall

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2010 - It's been two and a half weeks since Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters began enforcing a new policy requiring everyone under 18 to to be accompanied by a guardian or parent after 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

The reaction to the curfew has been decidedly mixed -- with teens, parents, shoppers and businesses weighing in on all sides of the issue.

Kurt Bohlmann, the general manager of Mid Rivers Mall, said that the mall adopted the policy because of concerns from shoppers, retailers and community leaders about the rowdy, unsupervised youth in large groups who were dropping things from the upper deck.

From the mall's vantage point, Bohlmann said, "We are seeing an overwhelming positive response and creating a pleasant shopping experience. We are really excited about providing a safe, family-friendly environment."

Not surprisingly, some teens aren't as enthusiastic. Justin Bucker, a 16-year-old resident of O'Fallon and frequent shopper at the Mid Rivers Mall, said, "I think the policy is (BS). There's really no reason for it. If things are that bad, they need better security."

His friend, 16-year-old Brian Harris, agreed. He wondered why he couldn't come here on Fridays and Saturdays when "I can drive here. This is ridiculous."

Reaction among parents has been divided.

Stephanie Grothen, the mother of teenager Katie Grothen, said, "We've spent a lot of money at this mall over the years. We have sent Katie to the mall with money on Fridays and Saturdays to shop here. She doesn't cause any trouble at all, and if she did I wouldn't send her."

Ken Tow, a father of three under 18, said, "I think it's a great idea. It keeps parents watching the kids."

Retailers at Mid Rivers Mall seem happy with the change.

Andrew Gronefeld, a worker at Hot Topic, a store particularly popular with the preteens and teens, said "I don't mind [the curfew] because a lot of times kids come in here and mess the store up. With the curfew, there are less of those kids."

The manager of the Borders book store, Brendan Cody, has seen a definite improvement. "The curfew has restored more of a family environment. It's a quieter and more peaceful environment."

Cody said his business had declined on on Fridays and Saturdays because of boisterous kids. While Cody said he understood the need for a place to hang out, he said he also worried about some kids' foul language and the overall demise of a family-friendly environment. He hopes that families will begin returning on Friday and Saturday nights and says he has already seen an improvement.

The Galleria and St. Louis Mills Mall enacted similar policies in the last few years. The Mills' policy, which went into effect late in 2006, requires teens under the age of 16 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Debbie Steinmeyer, the marketing and business director of St. Louis Mills, said that the policy has had a positive impact.

"The parental escort policy has increased sales. Even the teen stores that were (originally) hesitant (found that) sales went up," said Steinmeyer. "Every center has to make a decision for itself, and for St. Louis Mills this was a good decision."

Mid Rivers Mall expects kids to carry identification to prove their age on Fridays and Saturdays. Officials start alerting younger shoppers about the policy at 5 p.m. to give them ample time to be picked up or have a parent join them. Security takes unaccompanied teens to reunion rooms, where they must then be picked up by a parental figure.

Mid Rivers Mall now offers incentives for families to shop on Fridays and Saturdays, hiring bands, clowns, balloon artists and magicians. Mall officials stressed that young shoppers are welcome to the mall every hour of the 72 hours it is open a week -- they just need to be accompanied for six of them.

Lauren Weber, a student at Georgetown University, is an intern at the Beacon.

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