AUGUSTA (WFXG) - Commissioners in Augusta will be voting Tuesday, Feb. 5th, on changing an ordinance that will allow two adult entertainment clubs to remain open if it is agreed that they can be passed down to an heir.
Dennis Williams, District 2 Commissioner in Augusta, says when thinking about the ordinance there are many things to consider. “Do we just side with one side or do we be fair and open to everybody?”
A local broker and president of Sherman and Hemstreet, Jo Edge, says the strip clubs are hindering growth and development downtown.
“Once you get to 6th Street and 5th Street, development has stopped because nobody wants to be near those clubs. And if they’re allowed to remain open that’s going to remain the case for years to come, if not decades.”
But, Commissioner Williams says there are many reasons surrounding the slow development of Downtown Augusta. “Are we absolutely sure, does that really make a difference? The business has been down there 30-40 years and that end of Broad Street has been slowly developing.”
Business owner Sandi Watkins has owned Sports Center for over 20 years and believes the strip clubs should stay. “We need to have some of everything and really and truly its not for everyone, but it’s not a bad thing,” said Watkins.
According to Watkins the owner of the clubs, James “Whitey” Lester, has made sure to always keep the streets clean and safe. “Our block is always clean, after even a first Friday our block is clean because Whitey gets someone to clean it up,” explains Watkins.
Despite those efforts, Edge claims reversing the ordinance is not a part of the original plan. “These clubs are not a part of the overall long term vision for downtown Augusta.”
Butch Lester, Whitey’s son, says they employ between 40-50 people, including two police officers to ensure their businesses are always safe. Lester says “It’s a historic place and the ordinance should allow the business to be passed down to a family member because it’s been here so long.”
Some people say there’s no negative impact on businesses downtown between Vegas Showgirls and Discotheque and they should keep it in the family.
“When people come in for the Masters to Augusta, they don’t ask you where the Morris Museum is, unfortunately, they ask you where the Discotheque is,” said Watkins.