Pantless mannequin near school bus stop stirs controversy

Life-size figure displayed outside bar in Keystone Heights

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. – In Clay County, controversy looms over a unique display outside a Keystone Heights bar. 

The dispute boils down to a bar owner's freedom of expression versus a concerned mother's perception of indecency. 

A mannequin chained to a pole serves as a prop for the bar called the Watering Hole at Smith Lake on County Road 214. But Kimberly Newton is worried it may be sending the wrong message to children who get on and off the school bus at a stop across the street. 

Newton and her 7-year-old son, Cayden, were waiting at that bus stop Friday morning. That's when Cayden said he glanced over at the mannequin and thought he was looking at  "a naked girl."

His mother was also taken by surprise at first glance.

"My 7-year-old says, 'Mommy, why is there a half-naked lady attached to a pole?'" Newton said. "As I approached it, I did realize it was clearly a mannequin, but at first glance, not really."

Newton told News4Jax she believes the scantily clad mannequin is too close to the bus stop. 

"Is this really the perception we want to give our children as they're going to school to learn?" the mother questioned. 

By Friday afternoon, controversy over the way the mannequin was dressed started spreading on social media. 

PHOTOS: Show of support for mannequin

“I don’t even belong to Facebook and I had people calling and saying, ‘You need to get on Facebook. Somebody is putting down your business,’” said Candace Turner, one of the family owners of the Watering Hole.

Turner said the mannequin, named Rae, is simply a harmless conversation piece, just like the many other conversation pieces inside the bar that are strategically positioned to get patrons' attention.

“We do change her clothes. She doesn’t just wear this,” Turner explained. “I feel like it could have been handled before social media was brought into it.”

The bar owner went on to say that Rae is far more presentable than what children might see in a shopping mall. 

“You walk past (a) Victoria's Secret storefront and there’s a mannequin in lingerie,” Turner said. “(Rae) is clothed. She’s wearing a red wig and sunglasses, but she’s clothed nonetheless.”

Newton said she wouldn’t have a problem with the mannequin if it was displayed after the school bus leaves. 

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