Neighbors expose strip club's negative impact

By Reggie Ellis

The Exeter City Council's decision to adopt an ordinance tightly restricting sexually oriented businesses, such as strip clubs, has set the standard for protecting neighborhoods from the intrusive industry, according to Gailen Olsen.

"If Exeter and other cities can plan ahead and have these types of law why can't we out here in the county," Olsen said. "There is no reason to have something like that next to people's homes."

Olsen has led a group of concerned neighbors trying to shut down Sugar Daddy's strip club on Mineral King Avenue at the Road 156 offramp of Highway 198. Olsen, who owns the property abutting Sugar Daddy's parking lot, was instrumental in convincing the Tulare County Planning Commission to deny the strip club a conditional use permit necessary to continue its current operation.

The Planning Commission officially denied the permit at its Aug. 11 meeting. An appeal to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors was filed on Aug. 19 by Stuart Miller, Wellman & Warren law firm on behalf of manager Laura Kennedy and owner Augustine Mora. The Board of Supervisors heard public testimony yesterday after press time.

Exeter's laws regulating sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) were passed unanimously by the city council at its July 27 meeting in response to the controversy surrounding Sugar Daddy's. The laws were passed in four city ordinances:

  • Ordinance 618

    Defined public nudity which must be legally defined by the city in order to prohibit it.

  • Ordinance 619

    Lists the "secondary negative impacts" created by SOBs -- crime, prostitution, downgraded property values, affects to children, etc.

  • Ordinance 620

    SOBs cannot be within 1,000 feet of 'sensitive areas' -- residences, child day care facilities, cemeteries, churches, schools, youth organizations and clubs, public parks or any public building regularly frequented by children

  • Ordinance 621

    A series of rules and standards that must be adhered to – lighting, cleanliness, appearance.

    Olsen also lives just a mile and a half from Farmersville City limits. Community Development Director Robert Rutherford said Farmersville has had an SOB ordinance since the late 1980s.

    "We even had one clever owner try to get away with piping in video of stripping on four big screen televisions," he said. "Even though there were no actual strippers in the building we were still able to shut it down."

    Sugar Daddy's opened in July 2002, two years before the Board of Supervisors adopted its ordinance regulating adult-oriented businesses on June 8. Under the ordinance, Sugar Daddy's would never have been allowed to be located within 1,000 feet of a residence. It is currently 53 feet from one of four residences on Olsen's property.

    Olsen's property is subdivided into four residences including his own. Just down a dirt road continuation of Road 156, which runs by the west side of Sugar Daddy's, is a row of homes of low-income families with young children who are forced to catch the bus near the front of the establishment.

    "I watch the mothers walk their children to the bus stop every day and I can't imagine trying to explain what that kind of place is doing next to their neighborhood," Olsen said.

    Olsen's oldest son, Kurt, moved his wife and three children out of the home shortly after the strip club opened in 2002. The home is currently occupied by Ruben Aquino, a farm manager who has a six month old daughter, a 9-year-old daughter, and a 16-year-old son.

    "An establishment like that should be located somewhere else, not here where there are a lot of homes and a lot of kids," Aquino said. "Put it somewhere it is not going to bother anyone trying to live in peace."

    Aquino's home is only separated from the club's parking lot by a chain-link fence lined with 14 foot-tall oleanders. Broken beer bottles line the bushes and his driveway, even though the strip club and card room does not have an alcohol license.

    "People urinate on the corner of my driveway and probably are driving home drunk," he said. "I understand the world is not perfect but their is no respect for other people's property."

    Olsen said he has caught people having sex in the parking lot next to his property.

    "This is where I wanted to retire and spend my days running an antique auto shop and working on old cars and bikes," said the XX-year-old former Harley-Davidson dealer. "If this stays I don't know what I am going to do. Something like this should never happen."

    The Board of Supervisors were not expected to make their decision yesterday because of a closed session listed on the agenda for "conference with legal counsel -- anticipated litigation" by the law firm representing the strip club's owner and manager.

    "I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else," Olsen said.

    A report of the board's hearing will be in the next issue of The Exeter Sun.

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