The XBIZ Weekly Retail Round-Up

Tod Hunter

Strip Club Reopens as Topless Restaurant

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The controversial Flesh Club will revise its name to Flesh Showgirls, giving up nude dancers for the right to sell cheeseburgers and beer with topless entertainment. The future of the former strip cabaret, on the city's family-oriented Hospitality Lane, has been in doubt since November 2007, when a judge punished the business for allowing lewd conduct by ordering it to cease all adult-oriented activities for eight months.

After the order expired, the club's owners kept the business closed while they sought a liquor license for beer, wine and spirits.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board granted a restaurant/bar license on Monday, agency spokesman John Carr said. State law doesn't allow an all-nude establishment to sell alcohol.

City Attorney Jim Penman, who has battled the cabaret more than a dozen years at a cost of more than $500,000, said police will keep a close eye on the establishment. The fight went to the U.S. Supreme Court, though the justices refused to hear the case.

In closing the club, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez ruled that when it reopens, it must remove all obstructions to visibility into private booths and the VIP room.

The ABC board put 19 conditions on the license, including a requirement that topless dancers stay at least six feet from the nearest patron. The license, which permits selling wine, beer and hard liquor, stipulates that alcohol sales must not exceed food receipts.

The menu offers sandwiches, chicken dishes and Tex-Mex food. The most expensive item is $10.

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Town With Topless Coffee Shop Considers Nudity Ban

VASSALBORO, Maine — Public reaction to a topless coffee shop in Vassalboro has led to a proposal to ban nudity at businesses.A draft ordinance that was presented to the select board will go to voters at their town meeting in June.

Town Manager Mary Sabins said she wrote the ordinance after a strong public response to the Feb. 23 opening of the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop. Sabins said the shop, which features topless waitresses and waiters, would not be affected by the ordinance because it already has a town permit and its legality is "grandfathered."

Still, coffee shop owner Donald Crabtree and three of his employees showed up Wednesday night to voice their opposition.

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Topless Landing Strip Lounge May Re-Open

ROMULUS, Mich. — City Council members voted Monday night to return the liquor license and entertainment and topless activity permit to Susan Nappo, the former owner of the bar. The council also approved a new dance permit for the downtown establishment, which has been closed for about six months.

The council approved the request on a 6-1 vote, not because they wanted topless activity back in the downtown area, but because they felt they had no choice.

“If we don’t transfer this it’s going to end up in court,” said Councilman William Wadsworth. “It’s going to cost us and it’s going to cost the taxpayers.”

Councilwoman Ellen Bragg said she voted for the transfer because the city was legally obligated to do so. She pointed out that the business was supportive of the community, too, when Nappo was in charge of it.

“We’re just voting on the transfer of the license,” she said. “We’re not voting on the establishment — it hasn’t even been sold yet. Whoever they sell the [bar] to, they have to come before us.”

Nappo indicated she had a potential buyer for the bar. The request for a dance permit was to allow the new owner flexibility to run a ‘regular bar’ if he or she chose to.

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City to Strip Club: Cover Up

WEST CHELSEA, N.Y. — An embattled strip club that opened last year despite stiff opposition from the community has been stripped of its right to operate as an adult venue. The club, Sapphire, had its permit as an adult-use establishment revoked last month following a Department of Buildings ruling stating that current zoning prohibits topless dancing at the address.

The DOB found that the club, which opened in October and is owned by proprietors of the original Sapphire location in Las Vegas, could not prove that previous adult use had occurred at the property. After a 1995 zoning provision rendered adult-use establishments in the area nonconforming with the new designation, existing clubs were required to either shutter within a year — or maintain operations without stopping for a period of more than two years to grandfather adult use for future clubs.

Although the strip club Privilege did previously inhabit the property, Sapphire’s owners could not confirm that the site had been continuously run as an adult-use venue to allow legal operation as a gentlemen’s club.

The department revoked Sapphire’s permit last month, and the matter was then passed on to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which performed an inspection of the premises on Feb. 17. During that visit, the club was found to be in violation of city regulations requiring that adult activity be limited to 40 percent of the location.

The club was open for business as of March 6, with a pair of bouncers standing underneath the entrance’s awning and topless dancers performing inside.

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Glasgow Moves to Tighten Controls on Lap-Dancing

GLASGOW, Scotland — A renewed move to amend legislation to ensure that lap-dancing clubs will be subject to tighter controls has been launched.

The deputy leader of Glasgow City Council, Jim Coleman, a crusader against the sex industry, has written to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill urging the Scottish Government to categorize lap-dancing venues in the same classification as sex shops.

He hopes it will result in the clubs being driven out of Scotland's biggest city.

Currently, licenses for such clubs are the same as those required by nightclubs, live music venues and even karaoke bars, and by September they will have the same categorization as pubs.

By attaching the licensing conditions, Coleman said he believes the local authority will have a tighter control over the setting up and operation of lap-dancing venues. Coleman attempted, and failed, twice over the last seven years to have the legislation amended by the former Scottish Executive.

In 2004, Coleman wrote to all 129 members of the Scottish parliament, as well as churches and chambers of commerce, seeking their support that decisions on "this kind of sordid entertainment" should no longer be in the hands of licensing boards.

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