A Dane County strip club that’s seen three reported shootings since late February will have up to two years to find a new location in the same rural town and in the meantime be subject to greater oversight and restrictions on its business, according to a tentative agreement reached Thursday.
A hearing on whether to yank Club Bristol’s liquor license was put on hold after attorneys for the club, located about six miles north of Sun Prairie, and town of Bristol residents who want it shut down announced they’d crafted the proposed agreement as a way to avoid a long legal battle potentially costing both sides hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The strip club’s attorney, Travis West, made clear that if the board revoked the club’s license, owners Rich Bickle and Jerry Wood would sue. That could tie up the case for years while leaving the business open.
“It gives them a chance to try to find a location in a neighborhood that is more suitable for their organization,” said attorney Mark Hazelbaker, who is representing eight residents in a complaint against the club. “The town of Bristol doesn’t need to spend $200,000 on litigation. What we need to do is find a solution.”
Under the terms of the tentative agreement, club representatives would need to be more readily available to respond to disturbances at the club and would be subject to monthly reviews by town officials and law enforcement that would be open to the public.
It will also need to increase security, including additional lighting, a fence and a security guard in the parking lot. Since the club voluntarily closed for 10 days after the most recent shooting, on March 7, it has cut back its hours to from noon to bar-closing time, or 2 or 2:30 a.m., to noon to midnight. Those limited hours would remain until the club can prove it can operate without any major problems.
If the club is unable to find a new site after two years, the town will have the option of not renewing its liquor license.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office said several rounds were fired outside the club in the early morning hours of March 7. Four days before that, a highly intoxicated man reportedly fired several shotgun rounds into the side of the club, and on Feb. 27, someone in or near the parking lot seemingly fired shots in the air as they drove away from the area.
No one was hurt in the shootings, but some neighbors say they represent a dangerous escalation to the noise, loitering and other problems connected to the club in the past.
The Sheriff’s Office hasn’t reported any major problems at the club since it reopened.
Wood and Bickle said they didn’t know Thursday if they would try to move the club into an existing building or build new.
“The 800-pound gorilla is that the club just does not belong in that location,” Hazelbaker said of its current site, which is at something of a crossroads in the sparsely populated area, with homes directly to the south and a smattering of businesses and homes near the intersection of highways N and V.
West, though, said that most Wisconsin towns are little more than places “built around three bars and a church.”
The town and the club hope to formalize the agreement in the coming weeks, and Hazelbaker said residents — several of whom showed up for the hearing Thursday — would be consulted on its details.
Amanda Haas, who lives about 400 feet away from the club, expressed lukewarm support for the proposed plan.
“I guess I’m OK with it as long as we’re a part of the new security plan that they are going to put forward,” she said.
Club Bristol is one of only two strip clubs in Dane County. The other is Silk Exotic in rural Middleton. Madison’s only strip club, Visions, closed more than a year ago after a series of violent incidents there.
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