Are strip clubs poised for a takeoff in Seattle?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Even before Seattle's "4-foot rule" died at the polls Tuesday, an application for what could be the city's first new strip club in decades landed in the city's lap.
It's far from clear whether the proposed club at Aurora Avenue North and North 96th Street will ever open. The businessman who applied for the license Monday is still trying to buy the property and would need additional city permits to open.
But the possibility was seized on by Mayor Greg Nickels, who warned of a proliferation of new clubs and urged the City Council to pass zoning restrictions on such businesses.
Nickels, who had backed the 4-foot rule, criticized the council for not acting on a proposal he made last December to relegate any new strip clubs to a mostly industrial area south of downtown. He singled out Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, a frequent Nickels critic who chairs the council land-use committee.
"I think the issue sits squarely in Councilman Steinbrueck's lap," Nickels said at a post-election press conference. "The council needs to take up that zoning legislation. Otherwise, what happened yesterday [the strip-club license application] will continue."
Steinbrueck fired back, saying the mayor's proposal would unfairly burden a single neighborhood. He said the council is working on alternate legislation that would disperse new strip clubs throughout the city, with an 800-foot buffer from schools, churches and parks and other sexually oriented businesses.
Steinbrueck said he expects the council to complete its work by March. He said zoning rules could have been adopted years ago if not for Nickels' refusal to allow the city planning department to work on the issue.
Without new zoning, strip clubs could open in any neighborhood business district, a possibility that did not overly concern Steinbrueck.
"I think the whole issue has been grossly overstated as a problem in the first place, largely by the mayor, and now we've heard from the people about the prudish-minded regulations," he said.
The rules rejected by Seattle voters Tuesday in Referendum 1 would have required dancers at strip clubs to stay at least 4 feet from customers. The rules also would have banned direct tipping and required brighter lights.
Seattle politicians have a long history of trying to squirm out of choosing where to allow new strip clubs. For 17 years, the council kept extending a "temporary" moratorium on new clubs, claiming to need more time to study the issue. That tactic was ruled illegal last year by a federal judge.
Bob Davis, who filed the lawsuit that overturned the moratorium, also submitted the application for the Aurora Avenue strip club Monday. He wants to use part of the $500,000 settlement he received from the city to help start the club in a partly vacant building that once housed a pawnshop.
Standing in front of his proposed site Wednesday, Davis gestured at the stretch of Aurora Avenue dominated by cheap hotels and used-car lots.
"How could I do anything but improve the neighborhood?" he said, noting Aurora's reputation for street prostitution. Davis, who has previously owned comedy and dance clubs, said he wants to open a "classy gentleman's club" that would also serve food. (Alcohol is off-limits at Washington strip clubs.)
Davis may have to look elsewhere to open his dream business. He is still trying to buy the building. An earlier offer to lease space was turned down.
"We have to take the [other] tenants' interest into account," said Grace Li, the property manager. She said the other businesses, including insurance agents and a pest-control service, could be hurt by a strip club.
The building also houses a massage parlor, Avalon, that advertises "Hot Exotic Asians" in the back pages of Seattle Weekly. When asked about that business, Li said she did not know about it.
Davis said he had offered to purchase the building but that Li's asking price of more than $2 million was too high.
To open a strip club, Davis would also have to apply for an additional regulatory license and submit to a background check, which he has not done. He said if the Aurora location does not work out, he will look elsewhere.
Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or email@example.com
|Seattle Referendum 1 vote|
Placing restrictions on clubs, including that dancers remain at least 4 feet from customers. Partial results, as of Wednesday night:
Information in this article, originally published November 9, 2006, was corrected November 14, 2006. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that a new Seattle strip club has been proposed for a building at Aurora Avenue North and North 96th Avenue. The correct location is Aurora Avenue North and North 96th Street.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company