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County allows a strip club The commission may pay adult bookstore owner Kipp Whaley for legal fees.

July 17th, 2001

MURDOCK -- Prodded by a federal lawsuit, the county is letting the owner of an adult video store open a strip club in Murdock and is considering paying him to drop the suit. 
Kipp Whaley, 33, has offered to drop the suit if the county reimburses him for the nearly $50,000 he spent on legal fees and other costs associated with efforts to open a strip club on Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte. 
On Monday, county commissioners met in private to consider the offer. After the meeting, Commissioner Tom D'Aprile said he expected the county to counter Whaley's offer within a month. 
"He's asking quite a bit of money for compensation," D'Aprile said. "Unfortunately, somewhere, somehow, somebody dropped that ball, and now we may have to pay for the mistake." 
County law doesn't ban strip clubs, but regulates where they can be located, County Attorney Renee Lee said. Since the site of Whaley's proposed club isn't close to any schools or churches, and he passed a background check, the county must allow the club, Lee said. 
"As far as we know, he has complied with all the provisions of our ordinance," she said. 
Whaley said he's "very happy" with how things are working out. He has received all the county permits and licenses he needs, and said he hopes to open his club, Emerald City, by the end of August. 
The 3,000-square-foot club, on State Road 776 just west of Tamiami Trail, will only be open at night, Whaley said. Since the club will feature nude dancers, by county law it can't sell alcohol. 
"It'll have sodas and other drinks that I'll probably give away," Whaley said. 

An adult video store Whaley operates next door will be open during the day, providing around- the-clock adult entertainment, he said. 
"It will be the ultimate adult recreation facility on the entire west coast," Whaley said. 
Whaley has been trying to open a strip club in the area for nearly three years. In late 1998, county officials approved his plans to open a club in a former restaurant in the 4500 block of Tamiami Trail, and issued an occupational license for the planned business. 
But county officials later pulled the plug on the proposed club after learning that it was within 1,000 feet of a private school and day-care center, a violation of zoning regulations. 
While Whaley haggled with county officials, commissioners enacted a law in July 1999 that tightened restrictions on where such clubs could be located. 
Whaley never got his club. Last December, he sued the county in federal court, claiming that the county's initial efforts illegally kept him from opening the club. 
A judge has ordered the two sides to mediate the dispute. If an agreement can't be reached, the case will go to court early next year. 
Commissioner Mac Horton said he had "no idea at this point" how the suit will be resolved. Negotiations will be held behind closed doors but the public will be fully apprised of the board's decision "once it's all done," Horton said. 
After nearly three years of saying no, Charlotte County commissioners have agreed to allow Kipp Whaley, the owner of this adult video store in Murdock, to open a strip club next door. 
Whaley says he hopes to open his club, Emerald City, by the end of August. The 3,000-square-foot club, on State Road 776 just west of Tamiami Trail, will only be open at night, he says.

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