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Even without a pole, former strip club will house Pasadena firefighters

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PASADENA – from – The stripper pole won’t stay and the catwalk needs to be removed, but when renovations are complete by April, Peppermint Gardens, a onetime fully nude strip club, will be transformed into a temporary city fire station.

More than four years after its last lap dance, Peppermint Gardens, which cost the city $4.7 million in 2007, is now surrounded by a chain link fence at its location in the 2100 block of East Foothill Boulevard.

The industrial corridor serves as home to body shops, an In & Out Burger and Arem Hanna’s Big Daddy’s Fire Grill.

The cost included $3.7 million for property and another $1 million payoff to former owner Greg Hakopyan, not for services rendered in the champagne room but to settle a lawsuit he filed against the city.

The move to Peppermint Gardens is temporary. After six months firefighters will vacate the old strip club and return to a renovated Station 32 on East Villa Street. The station, built several decades ago, is undergoing a seismic retrofit.

Essentially the city got hosed in the deal, said one local businessman.

“Because of the economy we are in, it’s probably worth a third of what they paid for it,” Restaurateur Robin Salzer said. “There’s no movie theaters and shopping centers to anchor you. That’s a C location. They will never get what they paid for the location.”

Salzer said he would have been happy to turn his restaurant on North Rosemead Boulevard into a fire station if the city had made a similar offer.

“I wish they would have paid me more than $4 million for my property,” he said. “My restaurant’s available for that price too.

Salzer said a private developer offered him $2.1 million in 2007 for a lot about the same size in a better location.

His deal with the private developer fell through, but had the city come knocking with its deep pockets he would have rolled “out the red carpet out for them.”

Despite the the hefty price tag, Hanna said the city made the right decision in buying the strip club.

“It’s more important to the neighborhood to have something beneficial … not a strip club,” Hanna said.

Peppermint Gardens was ground zero in a fight between the City Hall, the residents who lived near it and the club’s owner.

Residents threatened to unseat then-District 4 City Councilman Steve Haderlein if he didn’t boot the adult club. The neighbors were convinced that the all-nude venue would attract sordid characters and blight the neighborhood.

In haste, Pasadena changed its zoning laws and placed a moratorium on strip clubs. Hakopyan contacted famed adult industry lawyer Roger Jon Diamond and the city found itself in the legal fight.

Haderlein and City Hall negotiated with Hakopyan during a contentious city council election and settled after the vote to “protect Pasadena’s neighborhoods,” the former city councilman said.

Right after the city paid Hakopyan the real estate market across the country took an abrupt turn.

There have been no offers for the property, which makes a decent temporary home for firefighters at Station 32, officials said. The station is one of six stations in the city that doesn’t meet current seismic code and urgently needs upgrades.

And while Salzer supports plans to place a temporary fire station at Peppermint Gardens, he said the city “should have been much more prudent in their permitting.”

“They panicked and overpaid,” Salzer said. “That’s why the city shouldn’t be in the real estate business.”

Public meetings haven’t been scheduled, Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.


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