COUNTY SHOWS MUSCLE TO FIGHT STRIP BAR PLAN THE CLUB'S OWNER IS ADVISED THAT A ROTATING SCHEDULE OF SPORTS AND NUDITY DOESN'T MEET CODE.
February 26, 1999
Charlotte County has put it in writing: Nudity needs special permission.
That's the bottom line of a letter sent to Emerald City strip club owner Kipp Whaley on Thursday advising him he needs a ``special exception'' permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals before opening a nude bar in Charlotte Harbor. Whaley wants to open the club April 1 at the former Fat Boy's barbecue restaurant, 4535 Tamiami Trail.
The county wants to stop him.
``As a detrimental use, Emerald City would be required to receive a special exception,'' wrote Elliot Kampert, the county's planning and zoning director.
The letter marks an official about-face for the county, which errantly approved an occupational license for the club in January.
At the time, county staff members overlooked the proximity of the club to Grace Community School, a private preschool at 4334 Laura St. County rules prohibit bars - or nude bars that are listed as detrimental uses - within 1,000 feet of schools, churches or public playgrounds. The school is less than 700 feet away.
``Bureaucratic bungling does not mean this club is going to open,'' said County Attorney Renee Francis Lee. ``Mistakes were made, but we have rules to uphold.''
A court fight looms.
Whaley has pledged to sue rather than submit to a BZA hearing where the club will be judged for ``compatibility'' with the surrounding neighborhood. Such a review would almost certainly end in rejection of a special exception permit.
``I've been through this a hundred times before,'' said Whaley last month. ``If they want to go to court, I'll win.''
Emerald City is being fashioned as a combination sports bar/strip club. Four nights a week, the club will serve drinks and show sports. Three nights a week, the bar will close and the club will feature nude dancing - in keeping with state rules prohibiting liquor sales at strip clubs.
Kampert advised Whaley on Thursday that his rotating schedule of sports and nudity doesn't meet code.
``In short, a commercial establishment licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises cannot be a bar one day and an adult entertainment establishment the next; it is one or the other,'' wrote Kampert.
Lastly, Kampert instructed Whaley to schedule a conference with the Charlotte Harbor Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee to discuss the plans for his club since it falls within the redevelopment zone.
Whaley could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Tampa-based Luke Lerot, did not return calls seeking comment.
Commissioner Frank Weikel called the action ``about time.''
``I'm pleased that Mr. Whaley will be receiving a notice that supports the position that he cannot open a nude bar,'' said Weikel.
``I've said all along that adult entertainment cannot be near a residential area or on the U.S. 41 corridor. If the law guarantees their existence, then we should put them in the industrial parks.''
Whaley, 31, is a Port Charlotte resident and owner of two local adult video stores - Port Charlotte and Venice outlets of ``Exclusive Video.'' He holds a long-term lease on the 3,500-square-foot Fat Boy's building, which is owned by local businessman Steve Duke.
If taken to court, Lee promised the county will prevail, though it probably will have to pay Whaley for his trouble.
``Mr. Whaley was operating under the impression that he had permission to open, and he's put money into the business,'' said Lee. ``We're liable for those funds, but it doesn't mean the club will open. We just can't allow that.''