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Goodbye bikini bar

Former strip club will be replaced with a pharmacy

LONGMONT — A former strip club that was in a long-running legal battle with city leaders has shut down and will be replaced by something far more prosaic: a pharmacy.

Walgreens is close to securing final city planning and development approval for a new, 13,285-square-foot store at the northeast corner of Main Street and 23rd Avenue.

“There’s just a few details they need to wrap up,” said city planner Brien Schumacher.

If the store gets its approvals, as expected, construction would likely begin in early June, Schumacher said.

Store developers said they look forward to leveling the site and replacing the hot-pink building and retaining walls with a store that better fits the area. The project is worth about $4.5 million. Walgreens will own both the store and the land beneath it.

“We’d like to get it open by the first of November,” said Dillon Tidwell, a principal with developer Hunt Douglas.

The store will have a small second story for storage and a one-lane pharmacy drive-through, Tidwell said.

News of the club’s permanent demise brought an ecstatic “woo hoo!” from nearby resident Debbie McBride, who said she and her husband would not have bought their house had they known it was going to be next to a strip club.

“Awesome. That’s very exciting,” McBride said. “My husband does not drive by. He actually takes the next street down. He won’t drive by it.”

Because the site is zoned and has been used for commercial purposes in the past, Walgreens was not required to hold a public hearing on its plans, although comments were solicited from neighbors.

Bella’s, a “gentlemen’s club,” repeatedly battled the city’s efforts to force it to close or relocate. A court decision in August permitted Bella’s to stay open on Main Street but under the restrictions of a special city licensing law. The club closed and reopened last fall as a bikini bar featuring “scantily clad women for your viewing pleasure.”

The club’s lawyer charged that the city had essentially run it out of town with multiple legal challenges and changes to licensing requirements. City officials said they thought a strip club had no place on Main Street.

Last year, the police department cited the strip club for letting dancers give lap dances.

In November 2000, the club’s owner described his new business as a sports bar to city officials and neighboring residents when applying for his liquor license. No mention was made to residents or city officials of bikini dancing and strip shows. The club opened in December 2000, featuring topless dancing.

The building started out as the Long Far Inn, a Chinese restaurant. A change to Whiskey ’n Rye followed before the establishment became Bella’s.

The city’s only other adult-oriented business recently completed a major overhaul. Mile Hi Adult Emporium was given permission by the city to spruce up both the inside and outside of the store with the stipulation that it not expand. The renovation created a second storefront at 1407 Main St., and a lingerie store called Naughty But Nice opened there.

Under city law, any new adult-oriented business would be limited to setting up shop in an industrial area and barred from Main Street or residential areas.

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