Review states strip club is 'not in compliance'

Matt Algarin
The proposed strip club, The Runway, would be located at 908 Airport Road.

The city's technical review team has completed its review of the application for The Runway, and now city officials are waiting for a response.

"The ball is in their court," Community Development Director Ken Gallander told The Log Thursday. "Comments have been sent out."

The technical review team is comprised of individuals from the Destin Fire Control District, Okaloosa Gas, Destin Water Users, the engineering team from the city's public services department, and members of the community development and planning department. They are tasked with reviewing the application for any "technical standards" their organization requires.

Once the document is reviewed, Gallander said they combine all of the comments that were made by the TRT and submit them to the applicant for their review. The applicant, which in this case is Trident Operations, LLC, has 60 days to respond, although they can file an extension for an additional 30 days.

As part of the TRT process, the Destin Fire Control District responded that the "Project is not in compliance with Okaloosa County ordinance," due to the placement of a fire hydrant.

"The location of the existing fire hydrant exceeds the maximum distances required... a new fire hydrant will be required to be installed for this project," their letter noted.

The city's building department added that the "current proposed handicap restroom door for both women's and men's encroaches into the lavatory fixture space," and that "all handicap parking spaces in Florida shall be 12-foot wide with a 5-foot access aisle."

Gulf Power, Waste Management and Okaloosa Gas all passed the review through with no comments or objections to the proposed project.

As part of the review process, city leaders in Destin are also still waiting for answers to questions about the applicants. They are trying to determine whether or not the applicants have legal authority to open the city's first strip club under the settlement agreement with the late Terry Stephenson, as well as who has an "influential interest" to operate the company.

"Due to the fact that there is a settlement agreement attached, we felt it was necessary to make reference to the influential interest and everything we had questions about," Gallander said. "It's just best for us to ask every question we need to."

Developers of the proposed adult entertainment establishment, which would be located at 908 Airport Road, originally submitted their application in January with the intent to open by spring. Construction cannot begin until developers are granted a development order.

With questions about the legality of Trident's application still lingering, the city of Destin brought in some extra muscle recently by retaining Orlando-based attorney Anthony Garganese of Brown, Garganese, Weiss & D'Agresta, P.A. Garganese was on the city's payroll during the settlement agreement with Stephenson, who was shot dead before his plans for the city’s first strip club could be realized.

Gallander told The Log that he has spoken to representatives from Trident Operations as recently as Monday.

"They had some questions about our comments," he said, noting that the proposed developers were asking about a wall or fence requirement that is part of the settlement agreement.

So, for now, the application is under review and city planners are waiting for a response from the applicant.

Signs of the times: Group raises signs to fight strip club

By Jessie Coker | The Log

You would be hard-pressed to find a Destin resident, who was unfamiliar with the pending strip club, "The Runway," which is slated to open on Airport Road.

But, with the recent addition of two 4-by-8-foot signs, courtesy of the Citizens for a Greater Destin, the few who were in the dark, have seen the light.

The signs, situated closely to the old Pottery World building that would be razed to make way for the two-story strip club, feature a nude, cartoon woman within a circle, crossed out with a disapproving slash mark.

Citizens for a Greater Destin was born in January after news broke about an Atlanta-based developer’s plans to open the city’s first strip club.

According to their website, CGD “is an organization established to serve as a unified voice for the citizens of Destin. The organization will address the concerns of the citizens while keeping the safety, moral and economic health of the community a top priority.”

Dan Dufault of Sea Coast Realty Group is the president of CGD and owns property within eyeshot of the strip club. He told The Log that he is completely, 100 percent supportive of the signs’ message.

"The purpose of the signs is about building, and keeping, public awareness," said Dufault. "The developers are saying that it's within their First Amendment rights for women to go into this building and remove their clothing; well, it's our First Amendment right to put up signs publicly speaking out about it."

Dufault continued, saying the terms of the settlement that would allow the strip club to open were agreed upon without any input from the community — outside of the public eye in an executive session of the City Council.

"It's almost like the city is scared of the developers … " Dufault said. "Cities don't usually take that stance; but the threat of a lawsuit is scaring them, I believe."

The next meeting of the group is listed on the signs: June 27, 7 p.m. at Immanuel Anglican Church.

Learn more about the group at On the site, visitors can also sign an online petition, donate to the cause via PayPal or First Florida Bank or request a free, small yard sign that reads "Say no to strip clubs."