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Grand Junction Planning Commission blocks strip club proposal second time

Colorado- A proposal to open a strip club in northwest Grand Junction failed for a second time before the city Planning Commission on Tuesday, prompting applause from opponents and a vow from the would-be proprietor to appeal.

Planning commissioners deadlocked 3-3 on a conditional-use permit that would allow the club at 2258 Colex Drive to serve alcohol. Commissioners Patrick Carlow, Roland Cole and Ebe Eslami voted in favor of the permit, while commissioners Mark Abbott, Lynn Pavelka-Zarkesh and Reginald Wall voted against it. Commissioner Bill Putnam, who voted to approve the permit in August, was absent.

In denying a permit for the club in August, some planning commissioners claimed it was incompatible with the neighborhood but defined the “neighborhood” as the entire city. That brought an appeal from representatives for the club’s owner and an instruction from the City Council to commissioners to narrow their definition.

Commissioners followed the council’s direction — and still rejected the conditional-use permit. Pavelka-Zarkesh and Wall argued the introduction of alcohol to the area could act as a deterrent for businesses that could locate there in the future. The property is surrounded on three sides by industrial zoning, with commercial zoning to the south. The land to the north and west is vacant.

“If we start looking at having alcohol in an industrial area, does that foster an environment where people want to bring in business?” Pavelka-Zarkesh said.

Wall also said he was concerned about the effect a bar could have on a home immediately east of the site, even though the bar would be in an area that conforms to the city’s standards for adult entertainment businesses.

The city’s zoning code permits such businesses as long as they are more than 1,000 feet away from several land uses, including residentially zoned land. The home is on industrially zoned land and is therefore considered a non- conforming use.

Rob Rowlands, an architect with Design Specialists and a representative for businessman Kevin Eardley, said he will seek to reverse the decision. He questioned the commission’s reasoning, saying bars co-exist with residential areas.

“It was just an out,” Rowlands said of the commission’s decision. “They buckled.”

Sarah Findlay, who said she spent 10 years as a topless dancer and began at Cheers downtown before it closed in 2004, now speaks out against strip clubs, claiming they act as a conduit for substance abuse, prostitution and violent crime. She said she was “really grateful” for the commission’s decision.

“No matter how they say they’re going to gloss it over and make it a ‘gentleman’s club,’ they won’t,” she said. “It’s just a very dangerous business, and that kind of business brings crime to a community.”

Her concerns were shared by many of the 14 people who testified before the commission. Some also expressed worries that patrons would emerge from the bar drunk and cause accidents in an area adjacent to U.S. Highway 6&50 that’s already plagued by crashes.

City officials have tried to make it clear that the issue surrounding the strip club wasn’t the adult-entertainment aspect of it, but rather the service of alcohol. Adult-entertainment businesses are allowed under city codes, as long as they meet a strict set of criteria. Eardley needs the conditional-use permit to earn more than 25 percent of his revenue from alcohol sales.

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