Unalaska strip club abruptly closes

Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2002

UNALASKA (AP) -- A strip club in Unalaska abruptly closed its doors after only three months of operation.

The club Mermaids shut down without warning March 31. While club owner Kostas Manolakakis said the closure is temporary, the owner of the building that housed the club said a search has begun for a new tenant.

Manolakakis said he was shutting the club down while he takes care of some paperwork in Anchorage.

The club has created controversy since it opened in January. It was picketed by downtown residents who objected to having adult entertainment in the area.

Within weeks of opening, the City Council responded by discussing ways to regulate the club. The council passed a new zoning law that prohibited such businesses from operating in most of Unalaska.

Manolakakis opened the club before the beginning of the opilio crab fishery. Performers were flown in to perform. The club was the first business of its kind to open in Unalaska.

But within weeks, the city council was trying to find ways to regulate the club, citing a link between adult businesses and crime, lower property values, and prostitution.

The ordinances covered how and where adult businesses can operate. A new zoning law prohibited such establishments from operating within 300 feet of a church, school, youth-oriented business, playground or residential development. The ordinances made Mermaid's location illegal, and similar clubs illegal in most of Unalaska.

A separate law regulated the business itself, including hours of operation, minimum distances between dancers and patrons, how dancers may be tipped, and size restrictions on adult businesses.

At a previous meeting, the council passed a prohibition on public nudity, requiring dancers to wear G-strings and pasties when they perform.

''It was interesting,'' said councilwoman Shirley Marquardt. ''I learned more about sex-oriented businesses than I ever wanted to know.''

The city attorney repeatedly warned the city council that ordinances like the ones it passed are almost always challenged in court.

Unalaska police Sgt. Matt Betzen said that no citations were issued to the Mermaids' management during the three months the business was open.

Marquardt said the club was a victim of the same forces that drive out most failed local businesses -- a lack of consistent traffic.

''When I talked to people, they all said a business like that can't make it in a community like this,'' she said. ''You need year-round business to make it work.''

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