After six months of heated debate, controversial plans to move forward with building a strip club in Grand Junction are rolling again. Tuesday night, the City Planning Commission ruled for the third time on whether to grant the club owner a permit to sell alcohol.
In a 4-2 decision, the commission approved the club owner's request for a conditional use permit to serve alcohol. Members of the Planning Commission who voted for approval say their vote is only a reflection of them following city codes, not of their personal feelings about a strip club coming to Grand Junction.
For Grand Junction business man Kevin Eardley and his team who will build a strip club near the outskirts of the city, it was an end to the months of appeals, negotiations, and stress.
"We're very happy about it," said Rob Rowlands, the club designer and spokesman for Eardley. "It's been a long battle and we won."
For dozens of others it was a crushing blow to campaign they thought they had won six months ago.
"We're obviously disappointed," said Mike MacFarland, a member of the group opposing the strip club. "It just shows that if you just keep pushing it, you'll get your way."
Eardley's request for the conditional use permit was denied twice by the Planning Commission -- once in August and once in November. Both times, Eardley appealed the decision to City Council, and both times City Council remanded it back to the Planning Commission. The third time ended up being the charm for Eardley, who got the permit he needed to apply for a liquor license.
Under city codes, Eardley could have opened the strip club without the conditional use permit -- he just wouldn't be allowed to serve alcohol there. Tuesday night, the debate stirred over whether alcohol and the area surrounding the club's Colex Drive location would mix.
"The commissioners finally came around with the fact that we did meet the code," said Rowlands. "The law is the law."
But others felt differently. Those against the club say city codes clearly state that the club's operations would have to have a minimal negative impact on the use and enjoyment of adjoining properties in order to receive the permit. They argue the kinds of people and behaviors associated with a strip club that serves alcohol did not meet that requirement.
"It blights and deteriorates neighborhoods," said MacFarland. "I don't think that's anybody's plan for the community."
Eardley says now he and his team can turn their attention to finishing the club's design and starting construction by the end of the year.
"It's time to get moving on," said Rowlands.
Those against the club say their focus has changed as well --
"We'll oppose the liquor license and we'll continue to do what we can," said MacFarland.
-- and that they'll continue to watch the situation well after the club is open.
"Once they open, they will be under a microscope," said MacFarland."
Eardley says had the commission not approved the conditional use permit this time, he would have taken legal action against the city. While discussing the matter, several of the commissioners said if legal action was taken, a judge would most likely overturn their decision, since city staff reports indicated the club met all the requirements needed for the permit -- and they didn't want to waste taxpayer dollars in court defending it.