In the latest development in a story that's attracted a lot of interest over the past two days, STLtoday.com and the Post-Dispatch are reporting that Florissant police have charged Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Cafe owner Lozell Stiles, 40, with second-degree arson in connection with the fire that destroyed the club early Sunday morning.
"Sgt. Kyle Lewis said Stiles was taken into custody Sunday and charged Monday. His bail was set at $10,000." the story continued. "Lewis said police did not have a motive for the arson at the restaurant and jazz club at 3425 North Highway 67."
It's understandable why neither police nor the Post can comment about motive, but anyone who's watched enough news reports and/or TV cop shows about arson cases probably can make their own suppositions. (For those unfamiliar with the conventions of televised crime fiction in the present-day USA: Generally, the business that gets torched during an episode of, say, CSI or Law and Order is losing money but covered by insurance, and thus worth more to its owners dead than alive.)
Having never visited the Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Cafe in its most recent incarnation, yr. humble StLJN editor likewise has no specific insights to offer about these particular circumstances. It is a bit odd, though, whenever a venue that ostensibly is relying on live music to draw in customers seems to have ongoing difficulties with booking and publicizing a schedule of performers in advance. That possibly could be an indicator of some sort of nefarious intent, but in my experience, can just as easily be plain old garden-variety ineptitude, too. In any event, if further information comes to light, this post will be updated as necessary.
And there is one bit of good news in this otherwise somewhat depressing tale: The cafe's next-door neighbor, a retail store called the Music House, came through relatively unscathed, thanks to a very substantial firewall separating the two businesses, and should be able to reopen soon.