Commission unanimously denies bikini bar

Property owner can appeal the decision at later date

By Tim Pulliam, Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville Planning Commission members unanimously denied Thursday night a proposal to turn a former Burger King restaurant on Baymeadows Road into a bikini bar.

The property owner wanted an exemption to allow what's called a "dancing establishment," which serves alcohol and features entertainers in swimsuits.

Staffers in the planning department have already said the application should be denied, and a report from the city said it didn't fit with the city's comprehensive plan for that area.

The man who wanted to open Paradise had his attorney apply for a zoning exemption with the city, and that's what was considered Thursday.

"Paradise will be a place that will provide food, entertainment and alcoholic beverage," said hopeful Paradise owner, Ticco Zhao. "There's word on the street that this will be a bikini bar. Yes, in a sense it will be like a bikini bar. I don't think it will be anything different from a Hooters."

In September, Zhao said his attorney applied for an exemption to the property's current zoning code, which is a change that would allow him to include dancing at Paradise. But women in bikinis serving food, drinks and dancing in an area surrounded by family-oriented restaurants and businesses didn't sit well with many.

"With all this positive going on in the community, as we all know, when we see these adult establishments, whether it's a bikini bar or strip club, nothing good comes from them as far as property values, crime. These are not positive things to a community," said Danny Becton.

The city's planning commission considered Zhao's request Thursday, and Councilman Stephen Joost said the City Council had the option to accept or deny the commission's recommendation.

"I'll consider all the facts, but on my six years on council I don't see where one of these types of bills have improved the overall health of our community," said Joost.

Neighbors spoke out Thursday night against the proposed bikini bar on Baymeadows Road.

Neighbors were concerned the new bar would lower property values in the area and increase crime.

"Plenty of places to get a drink on Baymeadows, you don't need another one and we're just totally opposed to the whole idea," said Roger Thompkins. "There's a school within a mile or two of where this place is going to be, several churches along Baymeadows corridor."

Attorney for Zhao, Karl Sanders, asked the commission for an exception to the 1.64-acre lot current zoning ordinance to allow dancing. Sanders told the commission that not allowing his client to have the exception violates the U.S. Constitution.

"First Amendment protects freedom of speech," said Sanders.

The property owner can appeal the commission's decision at later date.

WJXT had incorrectly referred to the group meeting Thursday as a City Council committee rather than the planning commission. We regret the error.

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