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Police raid downtown St. Petersburg bikini bar

ST. PETERSBURG — Police raided one of the city's new bikini bars late Friday night after an investigation revealed dancers were violating city ordinance by exposing too much of themselves, officials said.

Officers shut down Bottom to the Top, 1101 First Ave. N, about 11 p.m. Friday, then lined up about 30 scantily clad dancers outside the building.

Police arrested seven dancers, three managers, a disc jockey and a bar patron.

Dancers Shanita Williams, 24, Tamara Hopkins, 33, Jeanie Mantilla, 21, Marie Steisslinger, 21, Stacey Gordon, 22, and Dematria Gilliam, 28, were charged with violating the city's nudity ordinance. Dancer Tameka Hardaway, 20, was charged with obstruction.

Managers Michael McGee, 44, Shawn Bain, 47, and Jacob Land, 33, are accused of violating the city's nudity ordinance. Land also was charged with violation of felony probation.

Thomas Lisowski, 37, identified as a disc jockey working at the bar, was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, which police said was a butterfly knife, and for being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm. Bar patron Christopher Hillsman, 35, is facing a charge of resisting an officer without violence.

Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said officers had also received complaints about drug dealing and prostitution at the club, though it was unclear late Friday night if those types of charges would also be filed. Officers found cocaine and marijuana in the club during the raid, Proffitt said.

The club, which opened Feb. 5, is one of several bikini bars to spring up in the city over the last seven months, which caused some city leaders to worry.

Mayor Bill Foster said he learned of the raid Friday night and came to watch it. As the dancers were being lined up, Foster stood to the side with his arms crossed, shaking his head.

"That is a nasty place inside. Nothing good happens inside those walls," Foster said. "Quite frankly, these places aren't welcome in St. Petersburg."

Police said about 50 patrons were inside the club when it was raided. "This seems to be a pretty rough crowd," Proffitt said.

There have been about 40 calls for service regarding the bar, mostly complaints about noise, police said. There was a report of a brawl and gunfire on March 9, but officers made no arrests. On March 16, Bain was given a notice to appear in court for a noise violation, according to police.

The city has no strip clubs, largely because of strict zoning rules that prevent them from opening within 400 feet of churches, schools or day care centers. But bikini bars don't face those restrictions — as long as dancers don't expose their private areas.

If bikini bars serve alcohol, they only must meet the standards required of a bar. The first bikini bar, Club Sinn, 340 First Ave. N, opened in November.

The city has approved another club at the Mosley Motel, 401 34th St. N, and the owner of Cafe Adagio, 1111 Central Ave., had plans to open three stages with brass poles and dancers.

The St. Petersburg Times spoke to Bain, Bottom to the Top's head of security, for a story that was published May 14. Bane said the city's decision last month to extend drinking hours to 3 a.m. would help business.

"Now, with that ordinance, our customers won't go over the bridge to Tampa," he said. "Game over. Everything is going to be pushed into the downtown.

"If you're not in, you're not in," Bane added. "We're going to be in. Whatever the city does, we'll be here. We're grandfathered in. We know what we're doing."

Police said they expected to arrest at least seven dancers, and three people working in the St. Petersburg club on unspecified charges.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Police said they expected to arrest at least seven dancers, and three people working in the St. Petersburg club on unspecified charges.

Police raid downtown St. Petersburg bikini bar 06/05/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 6, 2010 1:32pm]

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