Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Controversial bikini bar in Valrico closes its doors

VALRICO — Showgirls Men's Club, a lightning rod for protesters over the last three years, is gone.

A group of investors will turn the bikini bar at 1602 E Brandon Blvd. into a hybrid sports bar and nightclub with live music and karaoke.

Although plans had been in the works for months, owners decided on Sunday to close, and shut down the bar that evening.

"It was a quick decision," said Mike Jordan of DMC Holding Co., which bought the building and the name of the club's former owner, Gemini Property Ventures.

Owners say the Hi-Life Bar and Grill will offer at least 14 flat-screen televisions, a dance floor, karaoke and comedy nights, and possibly a full kitchen. They are shooting for an opening date before the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.

"It's not going to be a sports bar and it's not going to be a nightclub," said Chris Jordan, 37, who is buying the club with his brother Michael and Dave Langsam. "It's going to be a combination of everything."

"There are going to be certain residents," he added, "who are going to be super-excited that it's a new place."

Like Terry Kemple, for example. The president of Community Issues Council led a protest against Showgirls in 2005, before the club even opened.

"How about that?" said Kemple, 62, said when told Showgirls is no more. "That's exciting."

Kemple and other opponents of Showgirls, including then-County Commissioner Ronda Storms, predicted a rise in crime should the bar open.

"It's called prostitution," he said Wednesday. "And I don't mince words about that."

The county delayed permission to open the club, citing inadequate parking. The club fought back, and eventually got a court order allowing Showgirls to open in February 2006.

The county hit back with rules requiring licenses for dancers and club owners, and forbidding touching between dancers and customers. The parent companies of Showgirls and Tootsies, another east Hillsborough bar, sued to have the ordinances thrown out.

In September, the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the new rules, which include bikini bars under the definition of an adult establishment.

Luke Lirot, who represented the clubs, called the ruling devastating.

"The new definition basically damages those businesses beyond recognition," he said. He said he intends to appeal the lower ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Showgirls got a legal consolation prize on October, when a U.S. District Court awarded Gemini Property Ventures just under $50,000 — paid by the county — for losses while Showgirls sat idle.

The bar didn't become a crime magnet as critics had feared. Earlier this year, Cpl. Luther Core of the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office vice squad said that his office had not heard complaints about the bar.

But neither was it prospering. The small parking area proved to be more than enough for the traffic. Gary Mack, the former Gemini owner, told the Times several months ago that Showgirls was breaking even.

Mack could not be reached for comment for this story.

In recent months, new owners obtained the zoning they sought from Hillsborough County to serve alcoholic beverages on an outside patio. With a slow Christmas holiday approaching, Chris Jordan said, Sunday seemed like as good a night as any to close Showgirls for good.

That suited Terry Kemple just fine. "We knew from the outset that it probably wasn't going to do well," he said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (813) 661-2431 or

Controversial bikini bar in Valrico closes its doors 12/24/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 12:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  2. Trump to speak at Arlington cemetery on Memorial Day


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is preparing his first Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave as they board Air Force One at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Saturda, in Sigonella, Italy. [AP photo]
  3. Two in serious condition after early-morning shooting in Tampa


    Two people are in serious condition after a shooting occurred early Monday morning in Tampa, according to the Tampa Police Department.

  4. Wrong-way driver on Courtney Campbell Causeway intercepted by police, faces DUI charge

    Public Safety

    A woman driving in the wrong direction on the Courtney Campbell Causeway early Monday morning was intercepted by Tampa Police officers and faces a DUI charge.

  5. Relative 'devastated' after shooting kills 8 in Mississippi


    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — Head in hands, his voice strained, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little yellow home and tried to make sense of how a family dispute led to a rampage that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe.

    Christianna May-Kelly, center, is supported by family members as she cries after answering reporters questions outside her parents' home in Brookhaven, Miss., Sunday. May-Kelly said her parents and mother were among the people gunned down during a shooting in rural Mississippi Saturday night. [AP photo]