Strip club proposed near Safeco Field
Longtime Seattle adult-entertainment figure Roger Forbes wants to open a strip club just down the street from Safeco Field. The Seattle Mariners aren't happy.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd.
And buy me a lap dance?
That's what a proposed strip club could offer just south of Safeco Field.
Longtime Seattle adult-entertainment figure Roger Forbes wants the city's permission to open a Déjà Vu strip club in a building about 400 feet from the home of the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners are not happy.
They have filed a formal objection with the city, saying the city should not allow nude dancing a home-run's distance from a place where there have been 3.9 million visits from children between 1999 and 2007.
Arguing with the vehemence of former Mariners manager Lou Piniella, the ballclub says the proposed business violates a city rule that prohibits strip clubs within 800 feet of open space or public parks where children congregate.
But Seattle attorney Peter Buck, who is representing the business, said the restriction applies only to a "public" open space or park.
Safeco is a private facility where people pay to get in, Buck said.
"We are familiar with the Mariners' objection, but consider it a question of taste rather than a legal position," Buck said.
Moreover, the city has clearly listed the address as a place where adult-entertainment business may locate, Buck said.
The club would occupy space at 1530 First Ave. S., now the site of a two-story building housing a few businesses.
It would be the second new club to open in Seattle since the city, in response to a federal court ruling, lifted 17 years of moratoriums on new strip clubs in June 2007. Strip clubs are permitted in certain areas but aren't allowed near schools, child-care facilities, community centers or another adult-entertainment business.
Déjà Vu strip clubs operate throughout the country, with three clubs in the Seattle area. Owners sometimes pay to use the name through licensing agreements.
Forbes' purchase of the Sodo-area building is contingent on obtaining permits from the city, said Jack Burns, a Kirkland attorney who also is representing him. The building's owner, Michael Ramage, couldn't be reached Monday.
Burns said the club would not have garish outside signs and isn't at a location where people linger.
The city already has granted Déjà Vu an adult-entertainment license, but the business also must produce a building permit and permits from the fire, police and health departments before any dancers can begin shedding clothes. That hasn't occurred yet, according to the city.
The city's Department of Planning and Development has asked Déjà Vu to make changes to its remodeling plans, some related to seismic and energy issues, said department spokesman Bryan Stevens.
In addition, the planning department, after preliminarily deciding strip clubs aren't forbidden near Safeco, is studying the Mariners' protest and will issue a finding, Stevens said.
When a decision is reached, either side can appeal to King County Superior Court.
The Mariners are looking at "all the available options" to keep the club from opening, said Rebecca Hale, a team spokeswoman.
In a lengthy letter to the city, the Mariners maintain the issue involves more than just a ballpark.
Children gather outside Safeco Field before and after games and the stadium hosts nongame events, including back-to-school rallies, junior and senior proms, high-school graduations and hundreds of school and public tours, the letter says.
Additionally, the team says, there is a public plaza next to the parking garage, used for bench sitting, dog walking, bike riding, football throwing and larger events, such as fun runs.
The Mariners also contend the conversion of the building is subject to state environmental review.
Seattle architect David Hasson, hired to draw up plans for the strip club, said the city's requests for structural changes are minor and he hopes to respond to them this week.
Hasson said his plans include two stages and a juice bar -- no liquor can be served in strip clubs. And new offices, seismic upgrades and other improvements would be added, he said.
Hasson said he believes the business is close to getting final approval from the city.
If that happens, some other business owners in the Sodo area also won't be pleased.
James Schnell, president of Emerald Market Supply, a food-equipment and supplies business next to the proposed strip club, wrote a letter to the city saying the club would be a "Black Eye on the City" if it's allowed to operate so close to a "Family Gathering Place."
In addition, his employees eat lunch and take breaks on the Safeco garage plaza, he wrote.
Schnell said Monday he has his building up for sale and will only take it off the market if the strip-club proposal is rejected.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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