The Richmond Register

November 9, 2012

City bans exotic dancing in historic district

By Bill Robinson
Register Editor

RICHMOND — Jack VanWinkle says Sapphires, the night club he plans to open across Main Street from Richmond City Hall next week, won’t feature exotic dancers performing for his patrons’ viewing pleasure.

Even if he wanted to promote that kind of entertainment, the terms of his lease would not allow it, he said.

As of Thursday, the city wouldn’t allow it either.

The city commission gave fast-track approval Thursday night to an ordinance banning “dance establishments,” either public or private, in which an “entertainment dancer” performs in Richmond’s downtown historic district.

The H-1 zone runs up Main Street from about Madison Avenue to about Aspen Avenue and out Lancaster Avenue at least as far as Irvine-McDowell Park.

First reading of the ordinance was heard in a special-call city commission meeting Tuesday, with second and final reading approved in another meeting that began at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. All five commission members voted for the ordinance.

The ordinance defines “entertainment dancer” as someone “who dances, removes articles of clothing, or poses in a nude or semi-nude condition to entertain customers or to attract customers,” whether paid or unpaid.

Such businesses would be inconsistent with the H-1 zone’s purpose to preserve the historic and aesthetic integrity of the area, the ordinance states, by tending to depreciate property values.

VanWinkle, who attended the meeting, said afterward he did not know how the nature of his business he intends to be “an upscale club” came to be mischaracterized as a “strip joint.”

He did not seem to mind the attention or publicity that had been focused on the soon-to-open business.

VanWinkle has made a “considerable investment” in remodeling and furnishing the historic building next to the Glyndon Hotel, he said.

The club will feature a disc jockey and a small dance floor, VanWinkle said, as he gave a quick tour to a newspaper reporter. The bar will be highlighted by an elegant waterfall, he said. The club will not serve food.

Asked about reports of steel cages being prepared in which dancing girls were to perform, VanWinkle just laughed and shook his head.

The club, which will be open from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday will have its dress code placed at the door, he said.

Male patrons will not be allowed to wear

hats, caps, bandannas or baggy pants and must wear collared shirts, VanWinkle added.

Asked why, in light of VanWinkle’s disavowal, the ordinance was set up for fast-track approval, City Attorney Garrett Fowles said the action was taken as a precaution, “in case we need it.”

The ordinance may not be needed for the immediate future, he said, but was still an advisable step for the city commission to take.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6690.