ST. PETERSBURG — The city is paying close attention to a new downtown bar with a devilish name that plans to use scantily clad entertainers while steering clear of calling itself a gentlemen's club.
The owner of Club Sinn, Heather Rardin, 35, is the former manager of Mermaid's, a bikini bar in St. Pete Beach.
Rardin said her week-old business, facing historic Williams Park at 340 First Ave. N, will also feature dancers stripping down to bikinis.
Elected and city officials have taken an interest in a small stage that Rardin built with a single metal pole in the center.
Rardin cannot apply for an adult use license, which would allow for less attire, because the storefront bar is a block away from two churches. The city code prohibits adult businesses within 400 feet of a church, school or child care facility.
Rardin said she does not want to apply for an adult use license. She does plan to have her entertainers dress in red and black outfits and wear a headpiece with small horns. They will take off their clothes onstage to reveal bikinis.
"It sounds like what their goal is, is to go right to the line and not cross it," said City Council member Karl Nurse, who represents the area.
Nurse was referring to the adult use regulations that prevent entertainers from revealing certain body parts and wearing skimpy or see-through clothing.
What about a bikini, from a legal point of view? "Generally, I would say that a bikini is not a violation. There are small bikinis that are smaller than other bikinis, and those might be a violation," said Mark Winn, the city's chief assistant attorney. "You almost have to look at them on a case-by-case basis."
Rardin has received a business tax license and a certificate of occupancy from the city and a liquor license from the state.
She will need to apply for individual business tax licenses for entertainers, the same kind of certificate needed by a hairdresser working for a salon. When she does, the city will be watching, said Philip Lazzara, a zoning official with the city's development services offices.
"We are prepared to issue that kind of approval with some specific language on it, as a friendly reminder of the applicable adult use regulation," Lazzara said.
The city has long had a careful relationship with adult businesses, which started to appear in large numbers here in the late 1980s and early '90s, Winn said. In 1998, the city passed one of the toughest adult use ordinances in the country, restricting the number of adult businesses to 15. Today, there are two in the city.
In more recent years, attention has focused on the quality of life around Williams Park, once the gem of the city, then at times a haven for crime, drug activity and loitering.
"We already have enough challenges downtown," Nurse said of Williams Park, adding of the club: "Maybe it will be a decent place. We'll have to see."
Luis Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2271.