Raleigh to review approval of adult club

Staff WriterJanuary 18, 2006 

Mayor Charles Meeker has asked the city attorney to investigate whether a board erred in allowing Raleigh's first topless club in more than 10 years.

The city's Board of Adjustments signed off on The Runway last week. Billed as an upscale adult club, it is slated for Mt. Herman Road between Glenwood Avenue and Interstate 540 near Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Meeker said Tuesday he had no reason to suspect a mistake, but he wanted to be sure that the club keeps the required distance from any school.

On a personal level, the mayor said topless clubs aren't Raleigh's preferred businesses.

"Raleigh is a city of families," he said. "Adult establishments aren't really part of our program."

But he has heard no objections.

The Runway is scheduled to open this summer. Stephen Leonard, who said he will own the building that houses the club and share interest on the land with a Florida-based partner, said he understands Meeker's desire to ensure the city's strict regulations were followed.

"He's in a political position," said Leonard, who also owns and runs The Office club in downtown Raleigh. "He needs to do everything he needs to do to make sure nobody messed up. I respect that."

The board makes its decisions without approval from council. "If we don't like it," Meeker said, "we have to sue."

City Attorney Thomas McCormick will present his findings at the next council meeting, Meeker said.

The Runway is the first topless club in Raleigh to win approval since Thee Dollhouse in the early 1990s.

The city has taken a historic hard line against such clubs.

Two brothers, Charles and James Veigle, took their fight to build an adult nightclub near the airport all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002.

The club was to feature nude and partially nude dancers. The city objected, arguing it would hurt nearby businesses.

The high court, though, declined to hear the case. The club was never built.

Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com.

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