For several years, fitness instructors Rachael Vint and Kyra Bailey have been teaching a striptease workout in various rented spaces. But when the women attempted to open their own studio in Bartlett in July, Mayor Keith McDonald gave them a bit of a tease.
"On July 10th, we were supposed to have media night. The poles and mirrors had just been installed, and I was about to leave the studio to go change clothes and come back," says Vint, co-owner of Eccentric Studios. "Right before I left, a code enforcement guy came in and said all the work had to stop."
The code enforcement officer handed Vint a stop-work order at McDonald's request. The Bartlett mayor was concerned that the studio violated zoning laws as a sexually oriented business, even though clothing is required and men are not allowed to watch.
The stop-work order was lifted last week, and Bartlett aldermen approved a $20,000 settlement to make up for attorney fees and lost revenue. Eccentric Studios began classes this past Monday, two weeks after their scheduled opening.
"When we found the space in Bartlett back in May, we read through all of Bartlett's ordinances and zoning information to make sure we wouldn't run into any issues," Bailey says. "We didn't fit the criteria for an adult-oriented business, so we went ahead with work on the studio."
After the stop-work order, Vint's attorney advised her to remove the poles and mirrors. Vint also had the power turned off.
"We came in and took the poles down with no power or electricity. It was terribly hot, and we tore up the ceiling a bit trying to get them out," Vint says.
But days later, the city lifted the stop-work order, and the poles and mirrors were re-installed.
"They were obviously concerned that the longer they kept us out of business, the more difficult this would be for everyone," Vint says.
Though Bartlett aldermen voted 4-2 to approve the financial settlement, alderman W.C. "Bubba" Pleasant says the move was more about preventing a costly court battle than admitting the mayor was wrong to prevent the business from opening.
"Code enforcement should be making sure that different businesses are in the right zoning areas," says Pleasant. "They were just doing their job."
Eccentric Studios held their open house this past weekend, and thanks in part to media attention about the stop-work order, classes for August are almost full. The studio boasts 11 poles, which Vint says she's never been able to have in her rented studios.
"Poles are the ultimate progression in this type of workout," Vint explains.