The building at 616 Marshall Avenue, formerly the Spot, has seen a lot in its day: a hip-hop club, underground raves, foam parties, even people suspended by hooks from the ceiling during a goth night event in the basement. And, if the building's new owner Charles Westlund gets his way, the place will soon see a lot more skin.
A downtown strip club might be great news for some tourists but not so for residents and property owners in the Edge district, the neighborhood reaching from Linden to Jefferson Avenues and from Danny Thomas to I-240.
Neighbors held a meeting with Westlund Monday night in the basement of Kudzu's, a neighborhood bar, to learn about the project.
Most of the 20 residents present said they opposed the idea of an adult entertainment venue because it could mean prostitution, drugs, vandalism, and reduced property values for the neighborhood.
"This will be detrimental to the entire area," said Janice Kennon, who owns the property directly across the street from the proposed strip club. "Along with clubs like this comes prostitution, drugs, and all sorts of environmental impacts, like debris, broken bottles, and broken windows."
Several neighbors also raised concerns about parking. The previous clubs' customers often parked on the street and illegally in private lots.
Westlund, who owns the the Pony strip club on Winchester and several other clubs in California, contended that he would be a good neighbor. He said he operates several "sober living" communities in California and randomly drug tests his employees.
"I didn't spend $750,000 [on the venue] to be a bad neighbor," said Westlund. "And if the neighborhood's not kept clean, I won't have customers."
Westlund says the club will be divided into adult entertainment, a restaurant, and a live-music venue where he'll feature national touring acts. The adult portion of the club will only be open at night.
Westlund has not yet gotten a permit to run a strip club in the area, and several residents asked if he would consider running the club as a music venue only. But he was confident he will get the permit and said he hasn't considered other options.
"I wish it could be something else," said Bettye Hauth from the area's International Baptist Church. "If he has to open a club, I'd like to see something with maybe some big-band music where people could bring their children."