North Miami is stewing right now over an age-old question: Can Big Bird and Elmo co-exist with lap dances and champagne rooms? A proposed strip club with a full liquor license neighboring WPBT Channel 2's headquarters and a number of schools has residents fuming. Take Pastor Jack Hakimian, leader of the Impact Miami Church, who says the proposal -- which is likely to stir discussion at tonight's council meeting -- would hurt North Miami.
"I guarantee the owner, the lawyers representing them, or the people who attend these clubs would not like a strip club that serves alcohol to open within a five-mile radius of their kid's home or school," he tells Riptide.
Supporters of the idea, though, say the competition between Sesame Street and strippers for the hearts of North Miami's kids is being overblown.
"So long as it remains closed during school hours, and they've agreed to hire off-duty North Miami cops as security ... with those parameters, I don't have a problem with it," says Councilman Scott Galvin.
Residents first learned of the idea late last month when the council considered a motion to lift a longtime ban on liquor at full nude clubs in North Miami. The change was tied to a bid by Sunny Isles Eatery -- which once ran Sunny Isles' Thee Dollhouse strip club -- to invest $2 million in a new club at 2050 NE 151st Street.
After Hakimian and other residents spoke out, the council voted 4-1 to postpone a vote on the move until later this month.
In the meantime, Galvin has been examining crime statistics and talking to the owners of the club, and says he feels that there's no reason to keep them from slinging beers if they meet certain conditions.
"I have every confidence this will be a high-end adult establishment," he says. "You don't put lots of money into a facility and let it be a junk heap."
Galvin also cites the number of other strip clubs, such as Dean's Gold, G 5ive, and Swinging Richards, in the surrounding area. All three are full-nude clubs that serve alcohol, but they are all in North Miami Beach.
For his part, Galvin says he's open to their concerns, but notes that there's no law preventing the club from plying its wares in that spot.
"It's an industrial district," he said. "I'd hope the residents would understand the Constitutional right that the business has to operate there."
The club's owners, meanwhile, say the new business would create jobs and operate safely.
"All we are asking is to use alcohol in the facility -- it is already a permitted use, it is zoned in that district and it can be opened here as of right now," Jeff Cazeau, an attorney representing the club, told the Miami Herald. "I would like to say this is an investment into a property that stands empty and will increase the tax base of your city. It will create employment."
But Hakimian and the local opposition are marshaling their case as well. The council will vote on the ordinance at its next meeting, scheduled for June 26, but residents are likely to air their concerns again tonight.
"Such places are ugly and work against healthy parenting, they have a negative effect on the environment and people's minds, they make it hard for the next generation of youth to stay focused, and they ghettoize the community," Hakimian says.