A controversial business that popped up recently along the Chula Vista bayfront is getting the cold shoulder from city officials.
Eyecandy Showgirls, a fully nude strip club, opened its doors for business Sunday unbeknownst to, well, pretty much everyone.
The business, operating out of the old Anthony’s Fish Grotto on the corner of E Street and Bay Boulevard, was suppose to be a comedy club, according to city leaders.
Now many in the community are up in arms over the controversial club, while talk of a legal battle is coming from both sides.
The city’s attorney, staff and others have been in meetings the last few days, investigating how the business came to be.
A business license application dated Oct. 4 for the company Bay & E Inc., described the business as a “cabaret theater,” which does not permit nude dancing, but was accompanied by a project description for a comedy club.
City officials are looking to the city’s municipal code for answers and a solution.
In a statement released earlier this week, Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said the business used tactics that misrepresented its true operational intentions.
“The actions taken by this business violate the guidelines of our city and the trust of our residents,” she said.
City staff has said that the Chula Vista municipal code requires a special live entertainment business license for exotic dance operations and prohibits nude or simulated nude demonstrations or exhibitions at such places.
“I’m not aware of any code section that totally prohibits (this kind of activity) in the city,” the club’s criminal defense attorney Roger Jon Diamond said. “If there were such a provision, it would be unconstitutional.”
The City Attorney’s Office and Chula Vista Police Department are currently gathering information on the nature of the activity, business licensing, permitting and land use.
“It’s just a regular business,” Diamond said Monday. “It has responsible management … it complies with all municipal law. The city has no authority to totally ban this sort of business.”
When asked about the confusion over whether it would initially be a comedy club, Diamond said, “What does it matter?
“It’s not a pawnshop,” he said. “It’s not a marijuana dispensary. It’s not a glue factory. And if nobody frequents the place and business is bad then they will shut down. It’s called free enterprise.”
The co-owners are named as Jake and Waldon Welty.
Diamond said he’s ready for any legal battle the city may bring but cautioned them.
“The city should avoid any type of activity that’s politically motivated, which costs the city’s taxpayers a lot of money,” he said.
In a San Bernardino case, Diamond represented Manta Management, the parent company of other strip clubs, in a similar lawsuit.
“The city argued that they would have to move to a different location than the one they picked,” he said. “We were forced to sue the city of San Bernardino and we won… In Chula Vista, my client looked for the most appropriate location in the city, one that did comply with the zoning code and one that’s the least offensive.”
The club is located directly across the street from the Living Coast Discovery Center, a place for families and children.
Diamond said a man whoz goes overseas to fight for his country should be able to enjoy the freedom they’re fighting for.
“You don’t want to fight the Taliban only to come back and fight the domestic Taliban —people who would restrict our freedom,” he said.
Another point of controversy is the fact that Diamond said they do not serve alcohol or food due to the fact that the dancers are fully nude.
Despite that, a project description and operational profile for Chula Vista Comedy Club, prepared by a company called Amber Hand Entertainment Inc., states in its overview that it “proposes to establish a comedy club/nightclub featuring live entertainment, a restaurant serving light meals and a full-service bar.”
Diamond maintains the business will bring money into the city and employ citizens.
“I think that my client is going to bring adults to Chula Vista, help revitalize the area and bring in more activity,” Diamond said. “They want to employ people and generate revenue for the city, all doing it in a legal way. It’s also environmentally sound. There’s no smoke. No grease. It’s a green business.”
City Attorney Glen Googins had nothing more to add Thursday as he and other city officials continue to look into the matter.
“We’re not releasing any more information at this time,” he said.
Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda said the whole ordeal is bizarre.
“This is a completely inappropriate location for this use,” Castaneda said. “From what we’ve been told at this point, not all the facts were given to the city and we have a code section that’s very straight forward that does not allow this use.”
Castaneda also clarified some buzz going around in the city.
“I think that people are under the misapprehension that we approved this thing or that we knew about it,” he said.
“This was as much a surprise to me as it was to the community.”
Chula Vista City Councilwoman Pat Aguilar is shocked this has happened.
“I’m appalled and I’m frustrated,” she said. “For the year and a half that I’ve been on the council I’ve been working so hard to improve Chula Vista’s image and this is a step backward.”
National City Mayor Ron Morrison, who found out about the strip club Tuesday, said having that kind of business would require more oversight from the city.
“You can’t fully outlaw adult entertainment venues,” he said. “What we’ve done, we have it so you can have it, but we restrict it to where you can have it, away from residential areas,” he said.
“We specify zoning where adult entertainment could go.”