UNALASKA (AP) -- A strip club has opened in the heart of a heavily Native neighborhood in Unalaska despite protests that it is harmful to the community.
Mermaids opened for business at 5 p.m. Friday, just as owner Kostas Manolakakis had promised.
Inside, three male customers drew the attention of the dozen young women working at the club. The women wore outfits that ranged from a star-spangled sequined bikini top and tap pants to a pink baby doll negligee.
Outside, members of the Qawalangin tribe and other concerned citizens quietly protested from across the street, signs reading ''Not in our village'' and ''Respect our culture'' held aloft. The Qawalangin Senior Center also sent over a busload of protesters.
''The thought of having such a type of business in Unalaska let alone its location,'' said Janice Lekanoff, president of the tribe, as she slowly shook her head. ''My dad said he cannot believe they are putting a place like this next to our church.''
The historic Holy Assumption Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox faith stands one half block past the new club. Its white clapboard walls and verdigris onion domes are clearly visible from the club's front door. The Qawalangin tribe is headquartered in a plain blue building right across the street.
''I was born and raised here,'' said tribal member Brenda Tellman. ''I'm sad its in our village, by our church and tribe, not far from our schools. I see it from my backyard.''
Her sentiments were shared by elder Sergie Kiukoff, 73.
''It should be somewhere else. It's not good for the people living here in town,'' Kiukoff said.
Manolakakis had tried to put the club at the site of the old NAPA store at the base of Standard Oil Hill, across from the Delta Western fuel dock. Families with small children opposed that location because many feared drunk drivers would take the shortcut over the hill and through their neighborhood to reach the club.
When that location fell through, Manolakakis began to negotiate to open in the space formerly occupied by the bowling alley, near the airport. Pressure from locals caused the leaseholder of that space to withdraw from those negotiations.
Manolakakis settled on the battered gray building that was once home to Stormy's restaurant, where he had been the chef more than a decade ago.
The interior of the old restaurant is largely unchanged. The back of the main room that once housed a sushi bar now serves up soft drinks. The salad bar has been replaced by a low stage, backed by beveled mirror panels. A brass pole runs down the center of the small stage area. A room to the side is reserved for private dances.
The club, which serves no alcohol, seats nearly 70 people.
Unalaska has only just over 4,000 year-round residents -- not enough to keep the dozen strippers gainfully employed. But it hopes to attract the often-cash rich fishermen who work in the busy fishing port.
Police were called to the club the first two nights after it opened. The first night one man was arrested for allegedly challenging another man to a fight. The next night police responded to a report that one of the window coverings had been removed and pedestrians could see the seminude dancers. Management quickly re-covered the window.
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