Is the heat on bikini bars?
ST. PETERSBURG -- City officials swear that they aren't targeting bikini bars, which are legally allowed, in the wake of the June 5 raid of the Bottom to the Top nightclub.
But Heather Rardin finds that hard to believe after last week.
Two police officers dropped in on Club Sinn, her 340 First Ave. N bikini bar, at 11 p.m. on Tuesday to check her licenses. They left 10 minutes later after verifying the liquor licenses were current.
Then, on Friday, 10 officers clad in black flack jackets did a sweep of her bar at about 9 p.m. The reason? To check her licenses. Again.
"What was going to change in those three days?" Rardin said. "What did they expect to find out? They were really nice, apologetic, but it's obvious that my bar has been labeled. If they do this again, I'd call this harassment."
The second group of officers were members of the city's street crimes unit. They also checked the bar's fire exits and liquor distribution stamps on the bottles at the bar.
"The rest of the night was dead after that," Rardin said. "I wouldn't go to a bar where there's a bunch of officers walking around."
Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said bikini bars aren't being targeted any more than other bars. He said the squad that visited Rardin's bar on Friday night also was checking several other downtown bars, not just bikini bars. He was contacted after 5 p.m. and said he didn't have details as to which other bars were checked on Friday, but he said he'll have that information on Tuesday. He also said he'll find out why Club Sinn was checked twice in one week.
"I know that after the issues with Bottom to the Top, patrol officers have been doing increased bar checks all around," Proffitt said. "What I'm guessing is that officers from different units were doing what they were told, but they didn't know that Club Sinn had already been checked on Tuesday."
Here's the mayor's tough talk on cracking down on illegal activities in bars on the night of the bikini bar raid.
Here's more info about Tuesday's "compliance check" of Club Sinn.
--Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer