‘Make a lot of noise’: Dozens of residents gather as opposition mounts against proposed strip club
UPDATE: The location of the next meeting has been changed — the meeting will now be Thursday, Jan. 31, 6 p.m., at the Immanuel Anglican Church, 250 Indian Bayou Trail in Destin.
Patti Terjak isn’t putting out the welcome mat for her potential new neighbor: a more than 5,000-square-foot strip club, likely called The Runway.
And Terjak isn’t alone. On Tuesday night, more than 60 people opposed to the proposed location gathered at the Funky Blues Shack to talk about their options — or lack thereof.
Calling themselves the “Destin Residents Against the Adult Cabaret — DRAAC,” this group of Destin residents is looking to gain momentum within the community and stymie the Atlanta-based developers.
The two-story building that could house the strip club — 908 Airport Road, formerly Pottery World — is visible from her house, but Terjak has known about the owner’s plan for only a little more than a week.
Terjak, a longtime Destin resident, business owner and mother, found out about the strip club when a local news channel, armed with cameras and microphones, came to her door to ask her opinion.
Her opinion? “I would rather the city rezone it somewhere more commercial,” Terjak told The Log, “somewhere it isn’t visible from a neighborhood, on (Highway) 98 or somewhere.”
Carmen Stiles, a Destin resident from the Kell-Aire Gardens neighborhood, agrees that a more commercial location would be beneficial.
“I realize that some people don’t want this to come to Destin at all; I just don’t want it next door,” Stiles said.
The proposed adult cabaret burst back into the headlines after last making waves in 2009. That’s when businessman Terry Stephenson battled the city in court to have topless dancing allowed at a Mountain Drive bar called the Oasis.
The issue was settled through mediation: The Oasis was precluded from allowing topless dancing, but in return Destin was forced to allow adult entertainment in areas of the city zoned for industrial use.
While Stephenson was shot to death in 2010 outside of a strip club he ran in Atlanta, documents indicate his associates are behind the current effort.
At the residents’ meeting, members suggested reinstating the Kell-Aire Gardens homeowners association, with hopes that having a more formal neighborhood alliance would help combat the owners of the strip club.
Dr. Kelly Haeusler, a veterinarian whose office is on Airport Road, is one of those against the idea of opening a strip club in the area. Haeusler said she realizes there may not be any way to keep the club from moving in next door to her clinic, but she wants the community to know about it either way.
Haeusler brought up another key issue during the meeting that she says seems to have been glossed over: parking.
Haeusler notes that for a building of its size, serving alcohol, they will legally have to provide a certain number of parking spots, making the building smaller, which could potentially make the overhead too high in the long run.
“According to city ordinances, they have to provide a certain number of access lanes, stacking lanes, fire lanes and buffer lanes,” said Haeusler. “There just isn’t enough parking there.”
Valet parking has been one proposed solution for the lack of spaces available — but again, the space isn’t there, she says. Asking the city to put up “No Parking” signs along Airport Road and other public roads would make it difficult for the club to secure valet spaces.
“The city and private businesses and residences would be well within their rights to have anyone towed who parked on their property — whether their car was parked by a valet or not,” said Haeusler.
DRAAC members have formed Facebook.com/groups/DRAAC to keep the community aware of what’s going on. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31, at 6 p.m. at the Immanuel Anglican Church, 250 Indian Bayou Trail in Destin. They have also created an online petition at change.org and linked it to their Facebook page. By Friday morning, it already had 200 signatures on it.
Shane Cannon, a Realtor and real estate developer in the Destin area, said urgency is needed from the entire group if anything is to be done.
“Make a lot of noise,” Cannon told the crowd. “The city can and will still hear your opinions, but you have to share them — quickly.”