Strip-club issue goes back to board

Try yet again.

That was the message the Grand Junction City Council sent Wednesday night to the
Planning Commission, voting 4-2 to uphold an appeal of the board’s denial of a conditional-use permit that would allow a proposed strip club to sell alcohol.

Mayor Gregg Palmer and council members Teresa Coons, Jim Doody and Doug Thomason approved remanding the club’s permit application back to planning commissioners. Council members Bonnie Beckstein and Bruce Hill voted to deny the appeal and allow the rejection of the permit to stand. Councilwoman Linda Romer Todd was absent.

Council members said planning commissioners still aren’t following the zoning code that lays out criteria for approving or denying permits for alcohol service or justifying their reasoning.

The decision ensures the hot-button issue that has generated demonstrations in front of City Hall, a flood of letters and anonymous postings in the media and a threat of a lawsuit isn’t going away soon.

This will be the third time the Planning Commission will consider a permit for alcohol service
at the club, which would be built at 2258 Colex Drive.

The area is in an industrial neighborhood in northwest Grand Junction.

Planning commissioners initially rejected the permit on the basis that it was incompatible with the neighborhood, although they defined the neighborhood as the entire city. After local businessman and would-be club owner Kevin Eardley and his representative appealed, the City Council sent the issue back to the Planning Commission with instructions to narrow its definition of a neighborhood.

The board, however, denied the permit a second time, claiming alcohol service wasn’t compatible with an industrial zone or with a home immediately to the east. Some planning commissioners also said it would discourage businesses from locating there in the future.

Eardley’s representative, Rob Rowlands, appealed again, arguing there was no legal basis for the Planning Commission’s decision.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, which featured an hourlong discussion between council members and City Attorney John Shaver, Beckstein said she didn’t believe that a subsequent petition Eardley would have to circulate in the neighborhood in order to obtain a liquor license would receive much support.

“It’s not consistent with what fits in that area,” she said.

But some council members said it’s apparent that planning commissioners are letting their personal distaste for adult entertainment guide their decision.

“I can’t help but think that they’re attempting to control the activity by denying the liquor license,” Palmer said.

Coons said she didn’t think it was appropriate to assume businesses wouldn’t move into the area, claiming there are several businesses that serve alcohol in industrial and commercial zones.

City officials have tried to make it clear that the conditional-use permit is required for alcohol service, not the topless dancing. They have noted that the club could open with administrative approval but not sell alcohol. Shaver has said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that topless bars are protected as free speech under the First Amendment, leaving the city in a position to regulate where adult entertainment can be located but not the entertainment itself.

“Basically the City Council recognizes that my argument was right,” Rowlands said after the meeting. “And now we hope the Planning Commission recognizes that.”

Eardley has said he will open a fully nude club that would be open to patrons as young as 18 if he can’t get the permit to serve alcohol. He has also threatened to sue the city for the right to serve alcohol.


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