Residents rally against The Runway: Battle lines drawn in effort to thwart Destin’s first strip club

Jessica Coker
Father Mike Hesse spoke during Thursday’s DRAAC meeting held at the Immanuel Anglican Church.

There’s no place like home for Shirley Constable and Betty Pope who have called Destin home for 19 years, when they moved to the quiet beach community because of its small town feel. But, according to the ladies, gone are the days of Mayberry.

“I think it’s going to degrade Destin,” said Constable, who was speaking out against the proposed strip club coming to Destin.

Holding another meeting on Thursday night, the Destin Residents Against the Adult Cabaret — DRAAC, met for the second time since finding out about the proposed strip club on Airport Road.

Meeting at the Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, more than 100 people — nearly twice as many who came to the first meeting at Funky Blue’s Shack on Jan. 29 — came out to support the cause.

There was a larger media presence at the meeting, with local news channels 3 WEAR and 7 WJHG in attendance.

Motivating the group with a call to action was Father Mike Hesse of the Immanuel Anglican Church.

"We don't have all of the answers, and we need your help," he told the crowd.

Hesse said the way the group and the community handle their opposition of the strip club is key.

"We don't need to look good on the news or on the front of the paper; we just need to look like who we are and what we stand for," he said.

Addressing the crowd, boat Capt. Andy Stempki, who unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011, spoke about the Constitution, property values and other issues that have been associated with the strip club.

“They are twisting the Constitution — specifically the First Amendment, so it works for them,” said Stempki. “So, basically, you can dance around naked and if you get arrested, just quote the First Amendment.”

During the meeting, the DRAAC organizers spoke about the next steps they were going to take in the fight to stop the strip club. Becoming more organized, they formed three volunteer committees to focus on specific issues.

Destin Realtor Shane Cannon volunteered to head the legal committee, as he has been in contact with a lawyer who specializes in municipality and property law. The other two committees focus on lobbying city leaders and rallying the public.

Parking — or lack of, still seems to be a major issue for the proposed 5,000-square foot strip club planned for Airport Road.

Gina Garcia, representing D.H. Investments, the owners of a portion of the Destin Industrial Park, said they aren't going to allow customers from the strip club to park on any property they own. Other neighbors also said they would call towing companies to report illegal parking.

Members of the crowd also worried that developers would try to acquire nearby property for valet parking.

Patti Terjak, an organizer behind DRAAC, told The Log that she extended invitations to Destin's Mayor Sam Seevers and the city council members, but none responded or attended the meeting. She added that they were well aware of the meeting and mounting opposition considering that every time an online petition is signed, an email is sent to the mayor and all seven council members.

The petition has collected 1,000 signatures in only 12 days — meaning all eight city officials have received more than 1,000 emails from the DRAAC members.

The next course of action for DRAAC is fundraising and working within the three sub-committees. Additionally, Kell-Aire Gardens is working on reinstating their homeowners association to combat the club becoming their neighbors. They are holding a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion on Main Street.

The DRAAC members want to make it clear to everyone that you do not have to be a Destin resident, or even a Florida resident to sign the paper petition and/or the online petition — as they now have signatures from residents in 23 states.

Another meeting has not been set, but you can join their cause and keep up with them at A copy of the online petition can be found by going to