by Nancy Stiles
Although open to the public, owners Mark Winfeld and Jim Edmonds are really banking on their new bar the Precinct (1900 Locust Avenue; 314-588-8899) being a success with St. Louis' finest. After all, it's located just around the corner from the St. Louis Municipal Police Department's new headquarters. But some local officers weren't so pleased when they read that the Precinct's menu featured something called the "Officer Down Challenge."
The challenge was to eat a pound of wings and drink two draft beers in under eight minutes. But some found the casual use of the term "officer down" offensive.
Would police really patronize a place with, as one police message board commenter put it, such "bad taste"?
Someone posted our original story about the opening of the Precinct on a message board called St. Louis Cop Talk and the thread exploded.
"I think it is is bad taste. Those words should never be taken lightly," responded a user named Retired County.
"Extremely poor taste," wrote another.
"There is nothing 'special' about those two words. They are the two words an officer never wants to hear. Please Mark, rename it," posted a third.
At the same time that the eating challenge name seemed to get unanimous disapproval, many were understanding and began suggesting alternate names for the challenge or ways to actually honor fallen officers.
"I've worked secondary for Mark for several years, and one thing I can tell you is he is a huge supporter of police and a great guy," wrote another commenter. "I'm certain he will change the name if he feels it is taken offensively and did not mean it to be. That being said I look forward to checking out the new place."
"I also agree that Mark meant no disrespect and was merely adopting a phrase that a non-police person may not understand its full implications," posted Jim Welby. "Since they are talking about wings which are usually served with some type of hot sauces, why not call it the Hot Pursuit Challenge?"
Winfield was listening. Some police-officer friends alerted him to the message thread and relayed that some found the name upsetting.
The name choice came about when Winfield and his team were YouTube-ing videos of people eating ghost chile peppers and scorpion peppers -- ingredients in some of the Precinct's hot-wing sauce.
"Those peppers were literally knocking people down, so we thought, if you do this challenge, it'll be an 'officer down,'" Winfield tells Gut Check, though he understands why police officers might not take the challenge's name so lightly. "I think the media, Hollywood, myself kind of use that word loosely, and officers take that obviously very, very seriously because it means someone is hurt."
Winfield says even if just a fraction of officers were offended, he doesn't want that.
"We changed it to 'Hot Pursuit' out of respect," he says.
The Precinct will be open for lunch and dinner beginning Thursday, October 10. (Winfield says the press materials say October 14 so that "we wouldn't be overwhelmed and running around like chickens with our heads cut off.") He expects to serve anywhere from 30 to 60 lunches on both Thursday and Friday. Winfield also emphasized the fact that a portion of the proceeds from the Precinct will go to BackStoppers.