Businessman drops plan for strip club

Schutt abandons Marley Plaza project before zoning review

Community opposed

Reasons for decision include media focus, condos' proximity

January 26, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A plan to open a strip club in a small Glen Burnie shopping plaza was abandoned yesterday by a Prince George's County businessman without so much as a day in the spotlight of a zoning hearing.

"We decided it just wasn't feasible because of the [media] attention and the condominiums next door," said Joseph Schutt who, with the owner of Marley Plaza, had applied last month for a county zoning permit to allow a liquor-free "burlesque establishment."

But the strip club on the upper level of Marley Plaza, a two-story commercial row in the 7900 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., would have been directly above Club Rumblefish, a bar whose proposal to sponsor a weekly teen night was rejected last month by the county Liquor Board because of a string of violent incidents on its parking lot in recent years.

"It just wouldn't work out," said Schutt, who filed the zoning request with plaza owner Jeffrey C. Miller of Baltimore under the corporate name Dancer's Inc.

"They got enough there with Rumblefish," Schutt said. "They don't need anymore."

He brought down the curtain as community opposition was starting to heat up.

County Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat who learned about the proposal this week, said yesterday that she was examining what could be done to stop the club from becoming a reality - including emergency legislation at the Feb. 5 meeting that would have prohibited burlesque clubs from operating in certain commercial areas.

"We were not going to tolerate an undesirable business," said Murphy, whose district includes Marley Plaza. "We were going to get the public to come out in strong opposition, because the fear was that if this got through, it would open the door to more of the same."

Murphy, informed of Schutt's retreat, said that she wished she had known about the strip club proposal before Schutt and Miller had put their time and money into pursuing the project. But, she said, she was "delighted we don't have to pursue it further."

The 82,000-square-foot plaza is owned by Marley Crossing Acquisition Corp. - Miller's company - and bordered by the Castle Harbor Condominiums to the north, a doughnut shop and a McDonald's to the south, Sun Valley Shopping Plaza to the east and Route 100 to the west.

It is also home to several businesses including a tanning salon, a dry cleaner and a Coast Guard recruiting station. Miller is an orthodontist with his office on the plaza's upper level.

Filed Dec. 15, the zoning application sought a "members only" strip club with a seating area of 44 tables and two stages for "dance" performances. Patrons would pay an initial membership fee, and thereafter pay an admission fee each night.

"There will be no solicitation for customers outside of the establishment," the application said, and no alcohol was to be served on the premises. County officials said that was probably because a liquor license would severely restrict how bare the dancers could get.

According to liquor board regulations, a license holder may not allow any "entertainer" whose breasts or buttocks are exposed "to perform closer than six feet from the nearest patron" or allow a simulation of a sex act.

"You can't show anything," said Richard C. Bittner, chairman of the liquor board. "The quote-unquote bumping and grinding would be prohibited. The most you could have is a '60s-style go-go bar with modest bikinis."

He added: "Thongs are prohibited."

McDoogal's, a Pasadena bar in the 8000 block of Fort Smallwood Road, lost its liquor license in 1997 because its go-go dancers were said to have lifted their bikini tops. But the owner, freed from the restrictions of liquor laws, put out a sign advertising a new, nude program.

It remains the only strip club in the county.

Reached at his home in Clinton yesterday, Schutt said, "We didn't really need the [media] attention. We were trying to keep it low-key."

A public hearing on the zoning request had been scheduled for Feb. 24.

"It was going to be bad enough at the hearing," said Schutt, a retired Prince George's County employee. He said he has no alternative plan for the Marley Plaza site.

Before abandoning the project, Dancer's Inc. had ordered a traffic impact study of key intersections near the plaza.

Murphy said she will work with the county Office of Law to see what can be done to prevent such businesses from opening.

"This was a quick victory," she said. "I just wish they were all this easy."

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