The 1.2 million-square-foot Saint Louis Galleria is the latest mall to impose a youth curfew in an effort to restore a consumer-friendly atmosphere for weekend shopping.
Starting Friday, persons 16 and under are required to be accompanied by an adult 21 or older after 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, when most youths tend to congregate. The mall's owner, General Growth Properties, based in Chicago, decided in March to impose the restrictions after two incidents of teen violence in the last seven months.
According to the latest figures, 44 of the 1,104 malls in the U.S. have curfews, including four others owned by General Growth. The malls are willing to endure backlash from some youths to maintain safety and calm.
"We aren't saying we don't want teens, but for these two nights, we want a parent or guardian to shop with you,'' said Patrice Duker, a spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. "We are here for all consumers and we want to provide an enjoyable, family-friendly'' environment.
The Galleria, located just west of the St. Louis city limits in the suburb of Richmond Heights, features more than 165 stores, including Anthropologie, Aéropostale, Hollister, Urban Outfitters, babyGap and Gymboree. Macy's and Dillard's are the anchors and Nordstrom is taking over a Lord & Taylor store. General Growth declined to reveal mall sales figures.
Kirk Ballard, General Growth Properties vice president, said Galleria management worked with community leaders, local authorities, city administrators and retailers to develop the policy. The 3 p.m. start time was selected because of the dismissal times for schools.
Security guards at mall entrances will check identification, which can be a state-issued driver's license, passport, school or military identification, but must be tamper-proof and have both a photo and date of birth. Department stores, which have their own exterior entrances, are exempt, but guards will prevent underage individuals from entering the mall when they exit the department stores.
Youths arriving at the Galleria 6 Cinemas will have to enter the mall through two designated entrances and be given a wristband. Guards will monitor them to ensure they go directly to and from the theaters.People who break the curfew will be escorted to a designated pickup area where they may call a parent or guardian to come for them. Individuals who drive themselves to the mall will be escorted out and told to leave the property.
Feedback from malls that have curfews helped support the decision to implement a similar policy.
"Comments run about 90 percent positive and 10 percent critical," Ballard said. "When our customers, retailers and the community are telling us this is a success, we can feel good about our decision."
Police were called to the Galleria twice within seven months in response to youth violence. There were arrests last Nov. 11 after a fight in the lower-level food court and a disturbance on the second level involving 25 to 50 young people. There was another fight in the food court on March 10 that involved about 15 people, and a juvenile was arrested for disorderly conduct and assault on a law enforcement officer.
Still, many young people aren't happy with the new restrictions.
"It's ridiculous that we have to pay for one person's mistakes," said Katie Lipton, 13, who spent the last curfew-free Saturday shopping with friends Samantha Corson, Alana Fried and Vivian Zimmerman.
"We spend most of our time pretty much at the mall and we get up really late, so it's going to make it really hard to come here without parents and we can't come at all on Fridays because we don't get out of school until 3:12," Fried said.
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