MEMPHIS, TN - A controversial strip club owner is stirring things up in Cordova yet again. Neighbors near the restaurant "Stella Marris" fear the owner's latest permit application will turn the restaurant into a strip club. This time, the City Council is taking action.
The application is for a “compensated dance permit,” which allows a club to pay its employees to dance and allows the employees to be tipped. There used to be a ban on these, but it was lifted in 2006, to allow the club "Coyote Ugly" to open on Beale Street. Community groups fear Stella Marris' owner Steve Cooper has different intentions.
“Why didn't we see this loophole? He's almost got us,” said Gene Bryan, president of the Cordova Leadership Council.
Bryan has been keeping a close eye on what's going on at Stella Marris.
“We've been concerned about Mr. Cooper for 4 years now, since he first started building the building,” said Bryan. “And we've always been concerned that he would incrementally creep in.”
Concerned that Cooper would “creep in” and create what he's best known for: strip clubs, like the Gold Club, recently under fire for its remodeling.
In Stella Marris's case, it's illegal to put an adult business in the restaurant’s location; it’s right across from First Tennessee's youth baseball fields. But the rules about a compensated dance permit aren't as clear cut.
“Very skimpy bikinis would be permitted, or lingerie,” said Bryan. “And it says nothing about how opaque they can be.”
City Council is concerned too.
“By applying for this, he is saying that his employees are going to dance,” said Councilman Morrison. “Therefore, it creates a problem of what does that mean, because he's said he's not going to have a strip club and he's not going to have that kind of entertainment, then why are you applying for a compensated dance permit?”
The council passed a motion Tuesday afternoon preventing the permits from being handed out for 60 days. So that's how long they have to close the loophole.
“There are some very gray areas on what defines a compensated dance permit,” said Morrison. “Is it wearing bikinis is it wearing nothing, and that's where the problem we have is, it's kind of gray, and we need to clean it up.”
Councilman Morrisson says it's up to the Police Director, not the city council to approve a compensated dance permit. The council can prevent them from being issued in the meantime, however.
The Cordova Leadership Council was already planning a forum to discuss Stella Marris before this latest permit application was ever filed. It will be held March 15th at Advent Presbyterian Church on Germantown Pkwy at 6 pm.