Developers submit plans for strip club as residents rally

Matt Algarin
The site of the former Pottery World on Airport Road could be the future home of an adult entertainment club based on discussions that have taken place at City Hall.

Based on the number of emails Councilman Jim Wood is receiving from concerned residents, it's safe to say that opposition to a strip club in Destin is mounting.

"The emails are all against it, one-hundred percent," Wood told The Log Thursday.

Developers with Trident Operations and Red Brick Construction LLC are behind plans for Destin's first strip club, which is going to be called The Runway. They filed their initial paperwork with the city's planning department Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. With the files in hand, the actual review process on the proposed 5,550-square foot gentleman's club can begin.

As of Friday, planners were not actively reviewing the application because the file is considered "incomplete," due to a missing lighting plan. Once the plan is received the review process will begin.

Looking at the plans, there are some familiar names listed. Boat Captain Casey Godwin is listed as the "registered agent" for Trident, and local attorney Dana Matthews was listed as the "authorized agent" for Red Brick.

Neither Godwin or Matthews returned multiple messages from The Log.

Godwin is the boat captain on the One of A Kind, which was owned by the late Terry Stephenson. Stephenson was the man who had first challenged the city of Destin to offer topless dancing, before he was gunned down outside his Atlanta-based strip club Pin-Ups.

The application on file at City Hall also identifies Atlanta-based attorney and former Stephenson partner Carey Wiggins as the manager of Trident.

In 2010 city leaders agreed to a settlement with Stephenson, who wanted to open a "sexually oriented" business at his Mountain Drive bar, The Oasis.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to allow topless dancing in the industrial zoning district, which sits along Airport Road. The city also agreed to expedite permit applications; to allow alcohol to be sold in the bar even if it violates an existing ordinance that prohibits the sale of alcohol at businesses within 1,000 feet of a church. Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church is located at the intersection of Airport Road and Main Street.

Councilman Jim Bagby said his phone and inbox have been relatively quiet, outside of the emails that are automatically sent to him as part of an anti-strip club online petition through that's making its way through the city.

"I'm over 850 emails," he said.

One of the problems with the petition though is that not all of the signatures are from Destin residents. Bagby said out of the past 25 emails he had received, a majority of them were from Niceville, Shalimar, Alabama and New Orleans.

"They have the right to petition their government," he said. "I support what they are trying to do."

With the documents on file, city leaders can only sit back and wait to see how the process pans out. City councilors have maintained their hands are tied as part of the settlement agreement, but questions have been asked that were not addressed when city leaders agreed to allow a strip club in the industrial zoning district.

"This is going to be a long process," Wood told The Log. "If you don't understand the past, it's hard to move forward."