From Chris Burg’s perspective, it’s simple: Don’t like the idea of a strip club in Spencer? Fine. Don’t go.
For those who haven’t heard, the Spencer businessman wants to turn his restaurant, Southside Grill, 325 11th Street SW, into a gentlemen’s club. Or, as he’s called it in a radio ad, a “gentlemen’s steakhouse.”
“I want to have two to maybe three poles in here,” Burg said Monday while he manned the bar at his restaurant during happy hour. “Open, private dances. Still serve steaks and limit the menu.”
Burg also owns Liberty Lanes, Spencer’s bowling alley, and A+ Carpet and Tile Cleaning in Ruthven. He needs a zoning change for the property to make his strip club happen, though.
There’s a Spencer Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing scheduled for 8 a.m. Oct. 10. The commission will hear supporters of and those against making a zoning change that would allow the club to operate at that site. A 500-foot setback rule or sexually oriented businesses would also need to be addressed.
Location, location, location
It’s all about location for Burg.
“I have a great location where I’m at,” Burg said. “There’s a lot of people who are lonely and want to come in here and just be entertained. I’m not selling sex. We’re just soliciting boobs, booze and steaks.”
In Spencer, sexually oriented businesses can only be located on land zoned light to heavy industrial. Southside Grill is zoned highway commercial, or C2.
Light and heavy industrial land in Spencer is often further from major town areas and see lower traffic than land zoned commercial.
“People would find it if I was out there, but I don’t have a building out there,” Burg said. “My building’s right here.”
Getting the word out
Burg’s approach has been proactive. He’s already heard from hundreds of supporters on Facebook. He handed out 200 bumper stickers with more on the way, released a radio ad and has put up a sign outside his business.
The sign, which has a design similar to his bumper stickers, features two clothed women dancing on poles with the text, “Vote YES for developing Business.” The only vote at this point would be by the planning and zoning commission members on whether to recommend to the city council a zoning change.
There’s a lot of people who are lonely and want to come in here and just be entertained. I’m not selling sex. We’re just soliciting boobs, booze and steaks.
At last week’s commission meeting, where Burg first spoke publicly about his idea, he said he wouldn’t have provocative signs for the business if approved.
The opposition changed his strategy.
“A lot of people are slandering me out there,” Burg said. “I’m just trying to draw attention now to the community, but in the future, I won’t have provocative things on my building or on my sign.”
This is a business issue to Burg, in more ways than one.
First, he said there are ways to make sure everything is on the up-and-up at strip club operations. He wants to make sure drugs, prostitution and sex trafficking wouldn’t happen.
“Part of it is you screen your dancers and your help, you have a good security system and you watch for signals and signs,” Burg said. “Will it happen? Maybe. Will it happen on my property? No. Will they leave the property and do it someplace else? Maybe. But we already have prostitution in town. We already have drugs in town. It’s not like any more is coming to town (with this business).”
He called the backlash to his idea “closed-minded.”
“People try to bring up Christian beliefs,” Burg said.
He doesn’t expect those who don’t believe visiting a strip club is morally acceptable to drop in. Even with different beliefs, everyone can still get a long.
“One of my good friends is a pastor in town,” Burg said. “He doesn’t support it, but we’re still friends.”
Another source of the backlash, he said, is Spencer’s experience with a strip club that used to be town years ago and how that establishment was ran.
“I was young, so I don’t really know much, but I hear there was a lot of prostitution and drugs going through the place,” Burg said.
For now, word about Burg’s effort may be helping Southside Grill. He said this past Saturday was his best in six months.
“I got a lot of support,” he said. “That’s why I handed out 200 bumper stickers in less than 24 hours.”
‘A business decision’
As for the planning and zoning meeting in October, Burg said commissioners should put aside personal beliefs.
“If you’re an elected city council person or on a zoning board, you have to put your personal beliefs aside,” he said. “And moral beliefs (too). This is a business decision. However, I think people are going to use their moral beliefs to try to create backlash.”
Another point Burg makes several times during the interview is that Spencer isn’t growing. New businesses can spur growth, he argues.
He’s right about population. Spencer’s shrinking.
“We are falling behind,” Burg said. “Is this the best business out there to grow (Spencer)? Maybe not, but it’s keeping a building open. I look at anybody who wants to bring a business to town, you’re more than welcome to. We need all businesses and industry.”