'Haven't heard anything': City waiting for response from strip club applicants

Matt Algarin

City officials are still waiting to hear back from the applicants of Destin's first strip club — The Runway.

"They are still working on our last review comments," Community Development Director Ken Gallander told The Log Monday. "We haven't heard anything."

Since applying for a development order to construct a 20,000-plus square-foot strip club at 908 Airport Road earlier this year, the city's staff and attorneys have been working through the application review process with representatives from the strip club, which includes local attorney Dana Matthews.

As part of the review, an applicant, in this case Trident Operations LLC, has 60 days to review and address comments (items that must be corrected or clarified) made by the city's technical review team (TRT). A one-time 15-day extension is also available to an applicant.

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.

Gallander told The Log that the TRT sent out its second set of comments June 20, which means Trident Operations must respond by early next week. If the city doesn't receive a response, Gallander said the application process starts over again.

Essentially, the city is asking for clarification over ownership of Trident Operations and whether or not they have the legal standing to open the proposed strip club under the conditions of a settlement agreement signed with the late Terry Stephenson, who was murdered outside of his Atlanta strip club Pin-Ups in 2012.

Stephenson had originally planned to open his Destin club at the former Oasis site on Mountain Drive, but city leaders denied the request, which led to a First Amendment lawsuit and subsequent settlement agreement.

Opponents of the strip club have argued that opening such an establishment directly across the street from a residential neighborhood isn't a good idea. Residents have also formed the anti-strip club group Citizens 4 Destin, which has been circulating an online petition and collecting signatures of those opposing the club. The groups petition currently has 2,084 signatures as of Tuesday.

Former Destin Land Use Attorney David Theriaque has been hired by Citizens 4 Destin and he recently told The Log that the settlement agreement the city signed is invalid.

While the review process continues, Gallander said the city can only wait and see what happens with the proposed strip club moving forward.

"They can't get a building permit for construction until they get approved for a development order," he said.