Group fights strip club with education (PHOTOS)

Jacob Fuller
Kelly Haeusler, who owns the veterinary clinic next door to the property that would become the city's first strip club, said the main goal of Thursday's meeting of Citizens for a Greater Destin was to educate the public about the ongoing struggle between The Runway developers and those who want to keep them out of town.

As the case for the city's first strip club spills back into federal court, a local group is doing whatever it can to keep The Runway from opening in Destin.

More than 70 people attended a meeting of Citizens for a Greater Destin Thursday night at Immanuel Anglican Church to learn more about the ongoing struggle between the city and developers who want to put a strip club on Airport Road and how they can let the city know that they don't want a topless bar in their neighborhood.

Organizers said the main goal of the meeting was to educate the public on the issue, because neither side of the current legal battle is being readily open with information on the case.

"We're not going to sit back and be quiet about this. We're not going to let them do it behind closed doors," group coordinator Dan Dufault told the crowd. "People have to be very careful about things that happen in the public eye. They better make sure that they are right, they are correct and that they're true, because people are watching. People really care about what is happening."

The group which is headed by Dufault, Shane Cannon, Kelly Haeusler and Lou Holzapple, handed out copies of a 35-page collection of documents regarding the developers' legal process to try to bring a strip club to Destin.

In the documents, Dufault and Haeusler pointed out several facts that they believe present problems with the legality of the strip club opening in the currently proposed location and the city approving the location.

The biggest issue, CGD claims, is that the city came to an agreement with Terry Stephenson, then-owner of Trident Operations LLC, to open the strip club on Airport Road in 2010. However, Stephenson was murdered outside his Atlanta strip club in September of that year. Now other parties are claiming ownership of Trident Operations and attempting to move forward with the settlement between Stephenson and the city.

At the time of his death, Stephenson was the sole managing member of Trident Operations. CGD claims there is no foundation that proves the current owners laid any legal claim to Trident Operations until well after Stephenson's death. Dufault pointed out that Trident's legal status as a limited liability company expired in 2011 and was not reinstated by the current owners for several months.

"If they really had an interest in the company, why weren't they making sure that it was ongoing?" Dufault said. "I would contend that the reason they didn't is because they didn't really own the company."

For more information on Citizens for a Greater Destin, visit There, you can also make a donation to the group and sign an online petition to city leaders asking them to condemn the project.

On Monday, the Destin City Council will discuss the lawsuit at 5 p.m. Monday behind closed doors as part of an executive session. Legal strategy sessions are an exception to open meetings laws. The council will convene publicly at 6 p.m. at the City Hall Annex.