Gentrification has accomplished what eluded city bureaucrats for decades.
Oceanside’s Main Attraction, North County’s only remaining topless club, is going away. A five-story 308-unit, apartment complex is proposed as its replacement.
939 North Coast Highway, Oceanside
Known to locals as “the purple church,” the Main Attraction bar and restaurant hosts between eight to 20 ladies a night who dance on stage around a brass pole while a DJ spins “Cherry Pie” or “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Admission is $11 every night after 6 pm but $14 for the once-a-month “amateur night.” Dancers are topless but never fully nude. Once inside, patrons are frequently asked if they would to pay extra for a private lap dance.
“It is my understanding this property is being sold to a developer,” says former mayor Terry Johnson who adds that getting the topless bar off that city entryway will be good for the whole street. “I am sure things will now start moving with the [long closed] Bridge Motor Inn property [to the north]. They can now get a Hilton or Marriott to come in. And things will start moving with the Motel Six property and the vacant Mira Mar building to the south.”
Johnson was mayor when Oceanside bought the “totally nude” Playgirl Club on Pier View Way in 2002. Johnson says the city forked out $1.5 million to owner Skip Arthur which included a reported $700,000 for the building and property, and another $800,000 for the business and a promise for Arthur never to open another strip club in Oceanside. That building now houses the California Surf Museum.
“Skip gave me the disco ball,” says Johnson about the highly publicized Playgirl closure 16 years ago. “I declined the dancer’s pole.” Johnson and other councilmembers took turns on a cherry picker to paint over the Playgirl sign for TV cameras.
“As soon as the Playgirl closed down, almost immediately the problems outside went away.” Johnson says the 18-and-up all-nude strip club attracted drug dealing and prostitution. “If we hadn’t gotten rid of the Playgirl, the Thursday night farmers market and the surf museum would have never happened.”
The city had tried for 20 years to close down the Playgirl. “But they fought back using the First Amendment,” recalls Johnson. He says the city has tried to get the Main Attraction to move somewhere else since its location at 939 North Coast Highway is seen by visitors as they motor into town. It is located across the street from the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and the Oceanside Welcome Center.
According to city documents, on August 22 the city held a developers conference about a proposal from the Lightfoot Planning Group regarding 5.3 acres adjacent to North Coast Highway and Costa Pacifica Way. Plans call for a five-story “mixed use” project including 308 apartments. The property includes five different parcels, one of them being the Main Attraction property owned by Gene and Judith Ann Edick.
Calls to Edick and to Main Attraction general manager Jamie Iglesias were not returned. Ann Gunter of Lightfoot Planning, was unavailable for comment.
Ex-mayor Johnson says the tools used mostly by the city over the years to get the Main Attraction off Coast Highway were financial incentives. But nine years ago owner Edick claimed the city was openly and illegally hostile to the strip club. Oceanside Police staged a raid after a bartender allegedly sold a single painkiller to an undercover officer. Edick filed a harassment lawsuit against the city alleging “outrageous conduct.” That case was dismissed by a trial court and the city was awarded its legal costs.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control shows no current discipline activity logged against the Main Attraction.
Kristi Hawthorne has worked across the Main Attraction for nine years. She is the vice president of events for the Chamber of Commerce. As president of the Oceanside Historical Society, she serves as the unofficial city historian. She says she is happy the Main Attraction is leaving but admits the business has behaved itself.
“We haven’t had any problems lately,” says Hawthorne who says she is only speaking for herself. “They have been good neighbors.”
But Hawthorne admits giving directions to the chamber headquarters was “embarrassing” at times. “For the last few years we could tell people we were right next to In-N-Out Burger. But before they came in, I would tell people we were across the street from the La Quinta hotel. And they would say, ‘Oh you mean you’re right across from the strip club?’”
She says she would not like to see the Main Attraction to move, say, to an Oceanside industrial park. “I would rather it just go away altogether.”
But a five-story apartment complex? Really? “It’s better than a five-story strip club.”
Hawthorne says in the '50s and '60s the place was a roadside bar and restaurant called the The Wheel Club. “Barbara Mandrell played there,” she said of the Oceanside-raised country music star. “In the '70s when it was The 101 Club it was still not a strip club. For a year or two around 1979 it was the First Edition disco club. In 1981 it became Francine’s which was a Top 40 dance club. We found a newspaper ad from late ’81 where they were looking for male dancers for a while. By the time it became Pure Platinum in the late '80s it was a full-on [female] strip club.
No announcement has been made about the date of any future public meetings about plans for the development.
Kyle Frolander is vice chairman of Oceanside’s planning commission. Speaking only for himself, he says the city is currently being overwhelmed with requests for general plan amendments that increase density. “We should be more cautious and start listening to what the people want.” He says having an appointed, unelected mayor is not helping the people have a voice.