MEMPHIS, TN - Keep the kinky out of Cordova; that's the message hundreds of people have for business owner Steve Cooper. They're worried he's trying to turn his Stella Marris restaurant into a strip club. Neighbors plan to fight.
Recently Steve Cooper applied for a “compensated dance permit.” That means he could pay employees to dance, and they could be tipped. The permit doesn't regulate what people can wear when they dance, and people in Cordova say something stinks.
While Stella Marris sat empty, the Advent Presbyterian Church on Germantown Pkwy was packed Tuesday night. Packed with people who worry about what the club could become.
“It's a strip joint,” said Brian Stephens of the Cordova Leadership Council. “He's just calling it a compensated dance permit, and that's what we’ve got to stop right now.”
“The effects of the neighborhood, the quality of home appraisals, the crime that it brings in,” said Cordova resident Rebecca Beavers. “And I have four girls, so I'm very concerned.”
The Cordova Leadership Council has been keeping a close eye on the property from the beginning. Its owner, Steve Cooper, is known for strip clubs, not cuisine.
“His intent has always been, and this is what he's done throughout the nation, to slowly convert this establishment into a full-fledged strip joint,” said Stephens. “And we need to put a stop to that and we need to stop it before it starts.”
The group is encouraging people to press public officials to toughen the laws on compensated dance permits.
“We need the community to rally up,” said Stephens. “We need to ask the City Council and the state legislature for some changes in the law and for better enforcement of the laws that are on the books.”
“If we take a stand against this, then, hopefully, we not only close this one down, but then we sort of say okay, no one is invited here, and, if you come, we will attack,” said Rebecca Beavers.
Cooper is not allowed to operate an adult oriented business in the area because of parks, homes and churches nearby. However, there are no distance requirements for a business with a compensated dance permit. There also aren't alcohol restrictions. Which means Cooper could keep his beer and liquor licenses if he is granted the permit.
The Memphis City Council put a moratorium on granting compensated dance permits through May 1st.
Cooper filed a lawsuit against the city for not giving him the permit within the required ten days, or an explanation of why it was rejected.