From strip club to Brazilian restaurant? Mary Esther's Club 51 building has been sold.

Tom McLaughlin
Northwest Florida Daily News

WYNNHAVEN BEACH — The building that at one time was home to Club 51 Gentlemen's Club, an adult entertainment establishment, on U.S. Highway 98 has reportedly been sold to a group interested in opening a Brazilian restaurant at the location.

Tim Beal, who along with partner Tim Galvin had owned and operated Club 51 on full time from February 2004 until July of 2018, and "frequently enough" thereafter to maintain the business' adult entertainment license, announced the sale to "F & F RIO LLC on Tuesday.

The deal was finalized March 31, according to Beal. 

The Club 51 Gentlemen's Club building on U.S. Highway 98 in Wynnhaven Beach has been sold.

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With the sale, the number of strip clubs in Okaloosa County has dropped from five to four as Beal and Galvin will be forced to surrender the license they fought for more than three years to hang on to "on the off chance," Beal said, "we changed our minds and decided to reopen before the property sold."

Three of the remaining businesses, the Beal and Galvin-owned Club 10, Sammy's and the Red Rose, all stand near one another off Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island. A fourth, The Matador Club, is on Old Highway 10 in Valparaiso near Eglin Air Force Base's east gate.

Beal said he had turned down offers since 2018 from prospective buyers who hoped to obtain the club and the adult entertainment license, which would have been required to continue as a strip club.

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"I have now taken the Club 51 Adult Entertainment License off the office wall and plan to keep it as a sentimental souvenir," Beal said.

He said he and his partner didn't want the added competition for Club 10 that a new adult entertainment establishment would bring. 

"The overlapping clientele and entertainer rosters at Club 51 and Club 10 were a big part of the reason we decided to sell the Club 51 property, but not the business," he said. "When we had both clubs operating simultaneously at full throttle, we were essentially competing with ourselves."

Beal and Galvin bought Club 51 in 2004 from DM and CC Cline for $384,000. 

When it opened, it replaced an establishment known as Area 51 which, according to news reports from the time, had been hosting topless dancing unbeknownst to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office or other county officials.

Area 51’s undercover unclothing allowed Beal and Galvin the right to be grandfathered in to an adult entertainment business license at a time the county was tightening its regulation of the industry.

Over the years, area counties have approved ordinances stringent enough to discourage efforts to open new adult entertainment businesses.

Walton and Santa Rosa counties passed their restrictive ordinances and have no strip clubs, Beal said, and of the six that at one time operated in Okaloosa County, only four of those grandfathered in remain.