By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
— Kokomo city officials aren’t calling it a crackdown, but Kokomo’s strip clubs appear to be under increasing scrutiny for potential zoning code violations.
Wednesday, the Kokomo Board of Public Works & Safety issued an order to demolish on Club Fantasy Girls, 1218 E. Vaile Ave., citing the business for structural and electrical issues.
“It needs a new roof; it has foundation issues. There’s a laundry list of things,” Kokomo Fire Department Deputy Chief Nick Glover said Thursday. “We don’t want to tear down businesses, but if it gets to the point the city has to step in, we will.”
Glover said the issues came to light during the strip club’s annually-required city fire inspection.
The business’ owner, Lawrence Franke, Indianapolis, has been contacted, and indicated a willingness to make needed improvements, Glover said. Franke couldn’t be reached for comment.
The move to cite the Vaile Avenue strip club comes as the city is currently embroiled in a court battle with the owners of Tease, a near-south side club, over a city citation for an alleged zoning violation.
The Kokomo Board of Zoning Appeals backed the city in December, finding that club owners Bret Morrow and Dustin Ogle expanded the club — which had previously operated for a decade as a strip club — in violation of the city zoning ordinance.
As a result, the owners are contesting the BZA decision in court, and are operating Tease as a bar while awaiting a decision from Howard County Special Judge William Menges.
The city has also moved to obtain concessions from Kokomo strip club owner Dan Dumoulin II, who agreed in late January to remove signs a group of community activists had deemed offensive. Dumoulin removed female silhouettes on two signs.
“I don’t think there’s any particular focus. We’re not looking at any certain type of areas to clean up — we’re looking at every kind of area to clean up,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said.
“Historic buildings, nuisance properties, thoroughfare cleanups; we’re making sure everyone is following city code, regardless of the type of business.”
Dumoulin had permits for the signs going back some 11 years, and was under no requirement to take them down, Kokomo-Howard County Plan Commission director Greg Sheline said.
Sheline said he, city attorney Lawrence McCormack and city director of operations Randy McKay met with Dumoulin in the fall, and asked him to take the signs down. That meeting may have been prompted by a citizens petition circulating at the time, which asked that the signs be modified.
The number of strip clubs in Kokomo — six until the temporary suspension at Tease — has long been a source of contention, with opponents claiming there isn’t a city in Indiana with as many strip clubs per capita. Kokomo has about the same number of strip clubs as Gary.
Scott Smith can be reached 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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