Hoochie club ignites controversy in North Georgia

Hoochie club ignites controversy in North Georgia

September 4th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Residents in one Northwest Georgia county are circulating a petition to button up what they fear will be a strip club across the street from a church and preschool.

But the woman behind the Hoochie Coochie Exotic Dance Club in Fannin County says there's a misunderstanding. She insists the dancers will be doing only dances such as the flamenco and maybe pole dancing, but not stripping.

"I very much think I should not have used the word 'exotic' with dancing," said Judena Beardmore, a co-owner of the club. "We've never, ever said we're going to be stripping and getting naked."

Earlier this summer, remodeling began on a building along state Highway 5 between Blue Ridge and McCaysville. When a sign went up advertising the Hoochie Coochie Exotic Dance Club, it became the talk of the town, according to Blue Ridge resident Tammy Grindstaff.

In a phone interview, Grindstaff said she has been afraid something like that might move in ever since the county decided to allow alcohol at restaurants about three years ago.

"If we didn't want to turn into Atlanta or something we never should have voted it in," she said.

She believes the club would be a bad fit for the county.

"There's not even a Dollar Store around [the club]," she said. "It's nothing but houses and churches."

An online petition against the club listed 146 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

"We're a small town with small-town values," states one comment posted under the name Guinn O'Neal. "We do not need a Hoochie Coochie Dance Club here to pollute the minds of our young people growing up here."

O'Neal is listed in online directories as living just across the state line from McCaysville in Copperhill, Tenn., but the listings did not include a phone number.

Beardmore, who runs a tobacco accessory shop in McCaysville, said contributing to the delinquency of minors or offending local residents is not her intent. She said she and her partner had asked city leaders in McCaysville if topless dancing was allowed and were told that, as long as they did not operate pool tables after 11 p.m., they were in the clear.

She said the question was more out of curiosity than an indication of plans.

Her initial plan was to open an exotic juice bar with dancers -- and call the place Juicy Lips -- but she changed the focus to a dance hall. The club would offer flamenco, belly dancing and pole-dancing classes during the day, then turn into an alcohol-free dance hall in the evenings at which patrons would pay to watch clothed dancers, she said.

City and county leaders initially were cooperative until incorrect assumptions spread, she said. Recently, someone smashed the sign outside the original location.

To avoid the controversy of being near the church, Beardmore and her partner are exploring other locations in the county. But since their initial conversations with city leaders, the county instituted a three-month moratorium on new business licenses.

"We feel as though we're being snowballed, to be honest," she said. "If it's not illegal, then I want my business license."

Getting the license and abiding by the ordinances are all that is required to open the business.

County Attorney Lynn Doss confirmed the moratorium and said it was put in place so the county could update a number of its ordinances.

She said ordinances already prohibit any business classified as adult entertainment from selling alcohol or locating less than 1,000 feet from a church or preschool. The location Beardmore had picked was 500 feet from one of each.

That being said, an exotic dance club with belly-dance lessons and no nudity probably would not be considered adult entertainment, according to Doss.

"I don't know what their intent is at this time," she said.

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