St. Paul bar has neighborhood residents asking city to help improve safety

The recent change of ownership at a St. Paul grill and bar has neighbors demanding the city step in. 

People living near Grand Avenue say for months crime around Billy’s on Grand has gotten out of hand.

"There are a lot of people in this community that are ready to see Billy‘s go," neighbor Julie told FOX 9. "Frankly I don’t feel safe and I have lived in a lot of big cities in my life including Los Angeles and Miami, and this is the strangest place I have been."

When gunfire erupts outside of her home, Julie tells her 6-year-old daughter that what the family is hearing isn’t gun shots, but only fireworks.

"We have a sound machine that we turn on and we kind of crank it at night when we go to sleep," she said. "Particularly from like Thursday to Sunday night."

As of 2021, new owners at Billy’s on Grand have brought their own approach to the area’s longtime family restaurant, with live music and a late-night entertainment.

But with crowds between 200 and 300 people on active nights, crime has followed.

"It’s just the wrong place and the wrong neighborhood," neighbor Dick said. "It’s a nightclub, it’s not a restaurant." 

After 52 years living in his home, he’s seen lots of change on the street, but these days he is shocked by what he is seeing.

"I see motorcycle gangs," Dick said. "Revving up their motorcycles, drag racing, shooting guns."

Meanwhile the restaurant’s ownership feels it’s receiving unfair blame for crime that’s unrelated to them. 

General manager Chuck Gilbert says the crime was here before they took over, and since moving in he’s brought on one dozen security guards.

"We’ve actually made an emphasis on providing a fun and safe environment," Gilbert told FOX 9. "We invest almost $2,000 a night on active nights with contracted security."

Police records show 38 calls to St. Paul police at Billy’s in 2019; then 69 in 2020 and 73 last year. About 6 months into this year there have been 96 calls for disturbances, shootings or just proactive police visits and more.

"The neighborhood is suffering dramatically," Dick said.

"Our goal at the very beginning was we wanted to make sure we were a positive addition to Grand Avenue and we still strive for that," Gilbert said.