BY P.J. REILLY, Staff Writer
A gentlemen's club in Columbia wants its dancers to perform nude.
Club Good Times, 425 Union St., has petitioned the borough's zoning hearing board for authorization to allow nude dancers.
"If the client prefers full (nudity) versus G-string … cater to the client if you can," said attorney Allen Shollenberger, who is representing the club's owner, Richard Fisher.
The proposal, however, has some Columbia officials and residents up in arms.
"To let them open it up to full nudity is not in the best interest of the residents," Columbia Mayor Leo Lutz said.
The Rev. Elizabeth Nocheck, pastor of Salem United Church of Christ at 324 Walnut St., said she had not heard any discussion about the proposal for Club Good Times before speaking with a reporter.
But, she said, having a nude club would put Columbia on the map for all the wrong reasons.
"They're God's children, and bodies are beautiful," she said of the dancers. "I'm just bummed that it's our town."
Club Good Times currently has women who dance while scantily clad. Under borough zoning, they cannot perform topless or fully nude.
The club is in a residential zoning district, which does not allow adult entertainment of any kind.
But Club Good Times is considered a "nonconforming existing use," borough code enforcement officer Jeffrey Helm said, because the activity at the club pre-dates the borough code adopted in 1999.
Club Good Times occupies the former home of Hartman's Cafe, which offered nude dancing dating at least to the late 1980s, according to newspaper records.
Fisher bought the property in 2002 from C.S. Dolan, who had bought and renamed the business Club Good Times in 2001.
David Hand was the last owner of Hartman's. He pleaded guilty in 2000 to promoting prostitution at the establishment, which was among the problems that led to the state Liquor Control Board revoking its license to sell alcoholic beverages.
When that liquor license was revoked, Helm said, the property lost the right to have nude dancing.
Club Good Times does not have a liquor license but allows patrons to bring their own alcohol.
Shollenberger is arguing that the club should be allowed to have nude dancers, saying Columbia doesn't allow them anywhere else in the borough.
According to Helm, Columbia allows adult entertainment -- including nude dancing -- in its general industrial zones, which are found in the extreme east and west ends of the borough. No such businesses are located there now.
But Shollenberger contends that the requirements to put an adult entertainment business in those zones -- which include being a certain distance from places such as schools, parks and churches -- are so strict that there's actually no room for such a club.
"It is our belief that the (borough code) doesn't allow for nude dancing anywhere," he said. "Try and purchase property (that is in compliance with code), and it can't be done."
Because of that, Shollenberger said, the borough must allow Club Good Times to have nude dancing at 425 Union St.
A hearing on the club's request began Dec. 5 and is scheduled to resume at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the borough hall, 308 Locust St.
"If residents have issues, then residents need to speak up at the zoning hearing," Mary Wickenheiser, the borough council's vice president, said.
Lutz said he and possibly other borough officials expect to testify about problems they've seen and heard about associated with the club.
"It's in a very residential area, and parking can be a real problem over there," the mayor said. "If we allow them to expand, it's only going to get worse, because they don't have any parking."
Lutz also said he's heard complaints from residents who live near the club about "intoxicated people being loud when they leave."
Fisher did not respond to emails or phone calls.
Correspondent Stephanie Bradford contributed to this story.
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