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    Proprietor loses to city's propriety

    The streetcar system denies the strip club owner's bid to name a station after his Mons Venus club.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 8, 2003

    TAMPA -- It's official. Now, the only way to stop at the Mons Venus is to pay the $20 cover charge.

    The group behind Tampa's new electric streetcar system has rejected a $150,000 offer by Joe Redner, owner of Tampa's storied Mons Venus strip club, to name one of its 11 stops the Mons Venus Streetcar Station.

    Redner received a letter Monday informing him of the decision.

    "Totally expected," he said with a sigh. "Very subjective, nothing objective."

    The letter, signed by Tampa Historical Streetcar president Michael English, made it clear that the name "Mons Venus Streetcar Station" would never fly.

    "Since the term 'Mons Venus' can be construed as the name of a female body part, in accordance with the guidelines, it was found to be both controversial, and could be construed as derogatory towards women," the letter stated.

    Those steering the streetcar said the decision wasn't about the controversial Redner, who made his offer on Dec. 18. It was all about the proposed name.

    "It's what he wants to name it, not that he wants to name something," said Ed Crawford, a spokesman for HARTline.

    "The fact that the term 'mons venus' is an anatomical reference that some people would find offensive just to say," he said, "would be essentially the equivalent of naming one of the stations the 'Turgid Erect Member Station.' "

    Redner said it was unfair to reject the name because it included the name of a body part.

    "I don't know how they distinguish that from eye, foot, nose or ear," he said.

    The streetcars' adopted advertising policy was borrowed directly from HARTline, Crawford said, which reserves the right to reject advertising "based on all kinds of aesthetic criteria."

    In July, HARTline officials turned down two anti-littering ads that would have appeared on the sides of Hillsborough County buses. One featured a cigarette butt, which would have violated HARTline's policy against ads featuring weapons, alcohol or cigarettes. The other featured a large pile of garbage, which officials felt could create an impression that HARTline buses weren't clean.

    "It's case by case," Crawford said. "We reserve the right to refuse any kind of advertising on the basis of taste."

    Sweetening the deal wouldn't have sweetened Redner's chances, either. Both English and Crawford said that even if Redner had tripled his initial offer of $150,000, the streetcar system would have balked.

    "We'd feel much worse about saying no," Crawford joked.

    English said several potential suitors are willing to pony up $100,000 or so for the naming rights. Among them: the Tampa Tribune, which in September secured the naming rights to the streetcar's stop near the St. Pete Times Forum in exchange for $125,000 in free advertising.

    The streetcar system offered Redner one conciliatory gesture. Attorneys for both sides haddiscussed other options, such as naming the stop after one of Redner's other businesses -- Joe Redner Enterprises, for example, or Xtreme Total Health & Fitness.

    If Redner comes up with a non-objectionable name, the letter said, the streetcar system would still consider his offer of sponsorship.

    Thanks, but no thanks, said Redner.

    "I had no other intention of using any other name," he said.

    Still, English said he hopes there are no hard feelings.

    "I think it was a sincere offer, and I would hope he's accepted our decision in the spirit in which it was reached," he said.

    Redner said he has no plans to appeal the decision elsewhere in the city or the county. But he said he's not necessarily out of the naming rights game yet.

    "Any time I could get the Mons Venus name on something that became available, I would do it," he said.

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