City, strip club reach 'agreement in principal' on pending litigation

Matt Algarin

After a looming court showdown was delayed in the eleventh hour, it now appears that the city of Destin and representatives from the proposed strip club may have found some common ground.

According to a court order by Judge M. Casey Rodgers, the plaintiffs (strip club) motion to continue the hearing was "unopposed" by the city of Destin. The two parties were slated to meet before Rodgers Feb. 6 at the United States District Courthouse for oral arguments.

A Feb. 2 court document filed on behalf of the strip club notes that the "parties participated in an all-day mediation" on Jan. 24 and negotiations continued, which ultimately resulted in an "agreement in principle to settle all of the issues in this case as well as the companion case in the State Circuit Court."

"While the parties are optimistic that the matter will be settled, it is premature to discuss this action," the document reads.

The "tentative agreement" is not final until it's approved by the city council. They will hear from city attorneys at an executive session on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m., and then will have the opportunity to make a motion and vote after the closed session ends.

While the executive session is not open to the public, the special meeting, which starts at 6 p.m., is open to attendees.

The legal wrangling has been unfolding for months, as both sides sought the assistance of the courts.

The city of Destin asked a judge to determine whether or not representatives from The Runway have the legal right to open the strip club on Airport Road under the city's 2010 federal settlement agreement with the late Terry Stephenson, who was killed outside his Atlanta-area strip club.

Representatives from the club subsequently slapped the city with a First Amendment lawsuit, alleging that certain "ordinances and practices" unconstitutionally compromised its protected “erotic speech.” An amended complaint was also filed recently, which included two new counts — retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights and breach of contract.


Patti Terjak is an organizer with Citizens for a Greater Destin, a group formed to combat what would become the city’s first strip club. She posts to the group’s Facebook page that there will be a community meeting/rally Monday Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at the American Legion on Main Street in Destin. “The city needs to know we won't accept not being heard,” she writes.