Citizens set to rally in advance of strip club meeting

Savananah Chastain
With the site of the proposed strip club in the background, a sign rallies residents to attend a communitywide meeting.

With a council discussion and possible vote on a Destin strip club settlement set for Feb. 24, Citizens for a Greater Destin is rallying residents at a Feb. 17 meeting.

 “It’s down to the wire,” said local activist Patti Terjak, who has spearheaded the group. “The intention basically is just to let everybody know that we have to get together. We have to show strength, we have to show numbers, we have to show that the community does not want the strip club.”

Shortly after forming, the group flooded city councilors’ email inboxes, and launched an online petition, which closed out at 2,191 signatures.

The lawsuit between the city and Trident-Operations has been ongoing since 2009, with an original agreement allowing Terry Stephenson to open the city’s first strip club in the industrial zone of Destin on Airport Road.  After Stephenson was shot outside his Atlanta area strip club in 2010, however, questions were raised as to the validity of the company that sought to inherit the settlement agreement.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that they [Trident] can already build a strip club,” said Terjak. “The different concessions in the settlement are what we are now contesting.”

Particularly they have focused on an exemption that would allow Trident to serve liquor even though city code prohibits serving alcohol in the industrial zone and near churches. The popular opinion is that without the liquor allowance, the company would be dissuaded from opening the strip club.

Terjak explained that the Feb. 17 citizen’s rally is a call to action.

“The purpose of the meeting is to inform people that we have seven days before the vote for an agreement, or settlement.”

She ensured that the meeting will be short and precise, but that the most important thing is participation.

“We need each and every person to write a letter. Write an email, why you don’t want the strip club, or why you feel it’s a bad idea for the community?” she said. “Why should the big players from Atlanta have more precedent on their rights and desires than 1,000 Destin citizens?”

At the rally, Terjak will urge residents to attend the Feb. 24 meeting to show a strong public opinion and presence.

“We have the opportunity to speak if we want to,” said Terjak, “the public is allowed to make comments, and then they [the council] have the discussion, and then they vote.”

The council will discuss the possible settlement agreement in executive session Feb. 24 behind closed doors at 5 p.m.  Whenever the strategy session is concluded, they will convene a public meeting. The city’s Doug Rainer confirmed the public will be allowed to address the council at some point during that meeting if there is a vote.

However, he added that a final decision or vote may not even occur.

Local attorney Dana Matthews, who is representing the strip club, did not return a call for comment.