Judge OKs plan to open up strip club near Safeco Field
A King County Superior Court judge on Friday cleared the way for a strip club to open within a home run's distance of Safeco Field, rejecting arguments by the Seattle Mariners that the City of Seattle improperly issued a business permit to the club's operators.
Seattle Times staff reporter
"Ripping the cover off" might apply to something other than a baseball in the area of Safeco Field.
A King County Superior Court judge cleared the way Friday for a strip club to open within a home run's distance of the stadium, rejecting arguments by the Seattle Mariners that the city of Seattle improperly issued a business permit to the club's operators.
Judge John Erlick, who earlier was presented arguments by the parties, delivered his ruling from the bench and issued an 11-page written opinion.
Erlick said his ruling was not based on the desirability of strip clubs, which had been dealt with by a federal court, or the advisability of where to locate such businesses, which is the role of the Seattle City Council.
His ruling, he said, was based on the city's application of its land-use rules and what constitutes a park and open space.
The Mariners have objected to the strip club, conducting a yearlong battle with the city over the propriety of allowing nude female dancing to be featured near the stadium, particularly where millions of children have attended baseball games and other events since the ballpark's opening in 1999.
The Déjà Vu club, sought by longtime Seattle adult-entertainment figure Roger Forbes, would operate at 1530 First Ave. S., about 400 feet south of Safeco Field's main entrance in the Sodo area.
Bart Waldman, the Mariners' executive vice president of legal and governmental affairs, said the ballclub would study the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.
"We're obviously disappointed in the outcome," Waldman said.
Peter Buck, a Seattle attorney representing the strip club, said the Mariners have 30 days to decide whether to appeal.
Buck said if the Mariners appeal, Déjà Vu would hold off on remodeling and construction.
If no appeal is filed, the club would open in about six months, he said. That would push the opening past the current baseball season.
Buck said he is not concerned if the Mariners appeal because so far the ballclub is "0 for 4" in a step process of objections filed with the city and the court.
The Mariners filed suit against the city in December, shortly after city planners rejected the Mariners' objections to the strip club. The ballclub was joined in the suit by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, a public entity that owns Safeco Field and leases it to the Mariners.
The Mariners argued that allowing the strip club would violate an ordinance prohibiting such clubs within 800 feet of community centers, public parks or open space, schools and child-care facilities.
But the city found Safeco Field does not qualify as a traditional community center or public park and open space.
The city also rejected the Mariners' contention that a public plaza south of the stadium, next to Safeco's parking garage, qualified as a park or open space because it was used for bench sitting, bike riding and other activities, such as fun runs.
Judge Erlick agreed, noting that the plaza also operates as an overflow parking area.
Erlick rejected a suggestion that the 800-foot rule should be interpreted to mean places where children tend to congregate. The City Council had not adopted such broad language, the judge ruled.
He also rejected arguments by the Public Facilities District that two other sites near the stadium constitute a park or open space -- Edgar Martinez Plaza and the Mountains to Sound Greenway that runs through the area.
Forbes has planned a 5,000-square-foot facility, with a main floor and two mezzanine levels. It would feature women dancing nude on stages, as well as lap dances in which nudity is not allowed.
No alcohol or food would be served, but a juice bar is planned.
The club would be similar in size to Forbes' two other Seattle Déjà Vu clubs.
The Mariners' lawsuit alleged the club would adversely affect families visiting Safeco Field.
Buck said the Mariners turned the case into a morality "pitch," even as the ballclub promotes beer in front of children at Safeco. Mariners spokeswoman Rebecca Hale replied in an e-mail: "Our appeal was based on code interpretation. Nothing more."
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
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