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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stage set for Showgirls

January 8, 2009
By Chris Bone
City planners have recommended the approval of Gilroy's first topless bar with a handful of conditions, and the police chief and planning commissioners who must approve the permit said they won't stand in the way as long as the applicant and his business plan adhere to the law.

"I'm bound by the law, not public opinion," Gilroy Police Chief Denise Turner said. "It may not be something the public wants, but legally we can't object to it if it complies with the law."

That's good news for Ante Bilic, the Saratoga-based club owner who wants to turn El Amigo Restaurant just north of the Gilroy Premium Outlets on San Ysidro Avenue into his latest venue: Showgirls. The building sits in a commercial zone that allows strip clubs if the planning commission and police chief agree. The commission will meet Jan. 15 to review Bilic's plans for a 56-seat club with two catwalks, a wrap-around bar, a main stage for topless dancing, six lap dance booths, a pool table and an outdoor patio.

If the body approves Bilic's permit, Chief Turner will then review it. She will also work with the local Alcohol Beverage Control Committee and the city's attorney to decide whether Bilic can serve up booze along with the show. City code allows both in commercial zones with separate permits, but Sgt. Kurt Ashley said the city attorney was reviewing this unprecedented request just to be safe.

As for security in general, both police and residents have expressed concern.

"I think it would make for more crime," Norma Jamies, the mother of a teenager, said. "Kids will find a way to get in. There will be fights, more drinking. It's not a good idea."

For Bilic to receive his permit, Chief Turner and the planning department have already required that he have a manager on site at all times with a security plan and ample lighting inside and out. Staff has also barred Bilic from staying open past 1 a.m. or open before 8 a.m., and his potential permit will expire before its three-year life span if the city receives complaints about drugs, prostitution or noise and if the city council acts on those complaints.

Thirteen years ago, four dancers at the Kit Kat Club - which Bilic runs in Sunnyvale along with Paul & Harveys bar, Tarragon restaurant and Sporty's Bikini Bar - pleaded guilty to performing lewd sexual acts in public. Police searched Bilic's property in connection with the sting, but they never charged him with a crime, and the city never revoked his permit, according to public records and his lawyer. Bilic, who has declined to comment, currently faces a class-action lawsuit filed by two dancers who claim he did not pay them properly, but his lawyer said he has beaten similar suits in the past and will prevail again. Gilroy requires a clean permit and legal history to open an adult business.

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