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Nearly nude dancers rile bar landlord

Careful reading of the county's adult use ordinance may allow Dreams to keep its bikini-clad dancers, much to the chagrin of the property owner.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 1, 2001


UNIVERSITY NORTH -- Roger Rigau was expecting his new restaurant tenants to open a sports bar called The Bulls Eye. Instead, they renamed it Dreams, with a sign advertising "Girls! Girls! Girls!"

Dreams wasn't a sports bar, but a "bikini bar," distinguished from a standard strip club only by a few inches of fabric on each dancer.

"This isn't an idea of something we want to be associated with," said Rigau.

Rigau, who has owned restaurant properties for years and practiced law for a quarter century, wanted to evict Dreams. Then he got some worse news: He may not be able to.

After stewing for two months, Rigau vowed this week that he will file an eviction or some other court proceeding with the same intent.

The lease between Rigau and Dreams requires that the tenant "will not be engaged in adult entertainment, rave or bottle club as defined by the Hillsborough County Commission and the state of Florida."

The closest definition the county has for adult entertainment is "adult use" in the zoning ordinances. Among several "adult uses," one is "special cabaret." It's defined as a "place of business which features persons who display or expose Specified Anatomical Areas to others." The "Specified Anatomical Areas" are defined as genitals, buttocks or female breasts from the areola down.

Richard Vandersteeg II, the man running Dreams, has lawyer Luke Lirot, who is best known for representing nude clubs owned by Joe Redner. Thanks to Lirot's careful instructions, dancers at Dreams apparently have been keeping their Specified Anatomical Areas covered.

Thus, Dreams may not be an "adult use."

But it's not for children either. Dancers strip to bikini tops and T-back bottoms, pandering to customers at the edge of the stage. They sell private "contact dances," performed in a separate room.

On a recent Thursday, Dreams advertised Jello wrestling.

Rigau has owned the property at 14802 N Nebraska Ave. for nearly 18 years. It has been a country-Western bar called Crackers and a motorcycle-themed bar named the Born to Ride Saloon. But last year, a second motorcycle incarnation called the Full Throttle Cafe fizzled.

Rigau said he was contacted by the manager of Hard Bodies, a strip club that in January lost its lease at Bearss and Nebraska avenues. Rigau rejected Hard Bodies.

Instead, he leased the restaurant to Robert Tillander, a former client, he said. Tillander brought in his son, Chris, and the son brought in Vandersteeg.

Rigau still hopes Vandersteeg, 28, will phase Dreams into a sports bar. He is encouraged that a sand volleyball court has been created in the back.

Vandersteeg referred all questions to Lirot. The attorney said, "The bikini bar format is probably going to stay."

Now the question may be whether Rigau stays.

"If somebody wants to come and buy it, it's for sale, and you can print that," Rigau said. "With all this that's going on, I'd just as soon be done with it."

- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469.

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