Up until this past weekend, there were three permitted adult entertainment establishments in downtown Augusta: the Discotheque Lounge, Fantasy’s Showgirls or Vegas Show Girls.
Fantasy’s Showgirls officially closed its doors this past weekend for good.
The closure of the strip club was at least a month in the making.
On Nov. 23, the owner of Fantasy’s announced that after 21 years in business, she was retiring.
“Fantasy fans, customers, employees, dancers and other entertainers. It has been a great 21 years serving you at the number 1 Adult Entertainment Establishment,” the owner posted on Fantasy’s Facebook page. “However, like the last drop of wine, everything must come to an end. December 31, 2016 will be the last day Fantasy’s opens the doors for business. To celebrate our long run and say farewell to our customers we are going to give you a LOUD farewell!”
Now, the Discotheque Lounge and Vegas Showgirls are the only downtown strip clubs still standing in Augusta primarily because of an alcohol ordinance that was adopted almost two decades ago.
In 1997, the Augusta Commission adopted an ordinance that resembled other regulations approved across Georgia that allowed such adult establishments to have either nude dancing or serve alcohol, but would not allow both under the same roof.
However, clubs such as the Discotheque Lounge, Vegas Show Girls and Fantasy’s were grandfathered in by the Augusta Commission and, therefore, they are allowed to continue to hold their liquor licenses under the current ownership.
The liquor licenses can be renewed every year; however, once the owner either sells the business or passes away, the existing strip club will no longer be grandfathered in under the original ordinance.
Therefore, there can no longer be a strip club at the former Fantasy’s location.
The approval of the city’s 1997 ordinance was created to prevent such adult entertainment establishments from popping up all over the county.
So now only two remain, the Discotheque Lounge and Vegas Show Girls, which are owned by the same man: Whitey Lester.
The last man standing.
But, much like Fantasy’s, this isn’t the first time a strip club voluntarily closed on Broad Street.
Back in 2005, a similar closure happened when the Marine Room’s owner, Leon “Bruno” Ward, decided to close the strip club he had owned since 1968.
Then, at age 76, Ward said he had decided to close the strip club at 627 Broad Street and sell the property to Morris Communications, according to a 2005 article in The Augusta Chronicle.
Once the business closed its doors, the adult entertainment license was no longer valid.
A year after closing the strip club and selling the property, Ward passed away.
Now, with Fantasy’s closing its doors, there may soon be no more strip clubs in downtown Augusta.
Because, let’s face it, it’s no secret that Whitey Lester, the owner of the Discotheque Lounge and Vegas Show Girls, is also getting up there in age.
Once those two strip clubs close their doors, the lower end of Broad Street could be forever changed.
Some in Augusta will definitely reminisce about the ol’ tales of The Snake Lady at the Discotheque and some of their wild nights in downtown Augusta watching the strippers, but many local residents will also see it as an opportunity for the lower end of Broad to be redeveloped.
Could new restaurants and shops find a home in Augusta’s former block of strip clubs?
Maybe. The catch is, some insiders believe that a new business owner may try to fight the city’s ordinance regarding strip clubs once Whitey Lester’s clubs close.
A new owner may decide to take the battle to court and roll the dice on whether Richmond County can properly defend its ordinance before a judge.
Only time will tell what will happen, but with the closure of Fantasy’s this week, the future of Augusta’s two remaining strip clubs will definitely be on the minds of many people around town.