Bangor to revisit nudity law

Posted May 25, 2010, at 8:13 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Diane Cormier, proprietor of Diva’s Gentleman’s Club, is a businesswoman.

Lately, business has not been great.

Unlike many business owners though, Cormier is not blaming the recession. For her, too strict municipal ordinances are the real culprit.

“It’s hurting business,” she pleaded with city councilors on Monday. “Portland ordinances are much more business friendly.”

Cormier appeared before the City Council related to a special amusement permit renewal for her business at 190 Harlow St. Instead, she used the opportunity to ask the city to reconsider its stance on the combination of topless dancing and alcohol consumption.

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The city’s existing adult entertainment policy, adopted in May 1998, allows nudity or alcoholic beverages but not both. Diva’s has been serving alcohol and requiring dancers to wear bikini tops and bottoms or g-strings and pasties, a combination Cormier said is far from ideal.

Council Chairman Richard Stone allowed Cormier to make her case Monday night.

“People do not like excessive government interference,” she said. “We’ve built a beautiful business. This council is a minority, and I think a majority of people want this.”

Most councilors appeared uncomfortable furthering the discussion, but Gerry Palmer voiced his opinion.

“I’m comfortable with the ordinance we have. I don’t see a need to change,” he said. “What happens in Portland can stay there as far as I’m concerned.”

Just when it looked like Cormier was going to go away quietly on Monday, Councilor Pat Blanchette spoke up.

“It seems like she’s been very reasonable in asking for this,” Blanchette said of Cormier. “It’s not our business to flatly say no.”

Blanchette then requested that an ordinance amendment be drafted for discussion and consideration by the council’s business and economic development committee sometime next month.

“I love you,” Cormier told Blanchette. “Thank you.”

Whether the ordinance change will actually get final approval from a mostly socially conservative council remains to be seen. If the recent statewide debate about whether women should be free to march topless in the streets is any indication, opinions about Diva’s are likely to be divergent.

The city can expect to hear complaints from representatives of the Schoolhouse, a housing complex in the old Bangor High School that sits directly across Harlow Street from Diva’s.

Stone later said he didn’t think Bangor should consider an ordinance change and he wondered whether the business and economic development committee would be wasting its time.

Diva’s has a lengthy and controversial history in Bangor.

The club opened at 65 State St. in the late 1990s. Cormier, formerly Diane Hilyard, previously owned and operated Body Magic in Ellsworth, a business that offered full body massage and nude dancing.

Bangor created its ordinances to deal specifically with Diva’s, and Cormier has been challenging the city ever since in and out of courtrooms. Councilors, buoyed by significant public pressure, have always kept Cormier from getting what she ultimately wants: a strip club that can serve patrons alcohol.

In December 2008, Diva’s was forced to move from its longtime home at 65 State St. when the building’s owner sold the property. Cormier found a new home on Harlow Street near the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in a building that also houses Diversified Ink, a tattoo parlor.

Cormier’s club is Bangor’s only exotic dancing business.

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