BANGOR, Maine — The tumultuous 13-year relationship between Diane Cormier, owner-operator of Diva’s Gentleman’s Club, and the city of Bangor may be headed for a separation.
Shortly before the Bangor City Council decided Monday that it would not support an ordinance change to allow nudity and alcohol consumption at the same time, Cormier informed councilors that she has been evicted from her place of business.
Cormier said she recently was given a notice to vacate her premises by Wednesday, June 30. Thomas Brann, who owns the building at 190 Harlow St. and leases space to Cormier, attended Monday’s council meeting and confirmed that Diva’s is eight months behind on its rent.
Within the last month, Cormier has lobbied the city to relax its zoning ordinance, which permits alcohol consumption and nude dancing — but not at the same time. In order to comply with the ordinance, Diva’s has been serving alcohol and requiring its dancers to wear the equivalent of bikini tops and bottoms, a combination Cormier said that hurts business.
“That makes about as much sense as going to McDonald’s for a cheeseburger and having to go to Wendy’s for a shake,” she said earlier this month.
By an 8-1 unofficial vote, councilors indicated Monday that they were perfectly happy with the ordinance as it is and agreed that the financial woes of Diva’s were separate from Cormier’s request for an ordinance change. Only Hal Wheeler voted to have the council consider changing its ordinance.
After the vote, the fate of Diva’s remained up in the air. Cormier left the council meeting without speaking to the media. Brann said that unless she comes up with the money she owes, the business will be asked to vacate his building, although he stressed that his decision had nothing to do with the type of business Cormier operated.
Monday’s action could well be the final nail in the coffin for a business that has long been at odds with the city. Cormier opened Diva’s in 1998 on State Street and moved the club to its Harlow Street location two years ago. She has tried before to persuade the city to change its ordinance and even brought the matter to court unsuccessfully.
The recent request was brought to the council last month by Councilor Pat Blanchette, who said Diva’s should be treated the same as any other business in the city regardless of the personal view of any councilor.
“I want everyone in the city to be able to come to their nine elected officials and present their case,” she said Monday.
The matter nearly died in a subcommittee meeting held earlier this month, but Cary Weston, chairman of the business and economic development committee, said he didn’t think three councilors should decide Cormier’s fate. He requested that an ordinance amendment be sent to the council.
“It was important to respect the process,” Weston said.
Two members of the public spoke at Monday’s council meeting, both in opposition to Cormier’s request. The Rev. James Haddix, pastor of All Souls Congregational Church, said he didn’t think Bangor should adopt an ordinance allowing what no other municipality in Maine allows. Carol Sherman, who identified herself as a pastoral counselor, said making a change to accommodate Diva’s would invite other businesses like it to Bangor.
“It will radically change the character of the city,” she said. “I think it’s important to not invite a change in the moral character of Bangor.”
Cormier likened her business to another sometimes-controversial Bangor enterprise: Hollywood Slots.
“If you don’t like it, don’t go in,” she said. “You have a choice.”
Earlier this month, Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia agreed that Diva’s does not draw any more complaints than any other bar or nightclub in Bangor, and in some cases Diva’s generates significantly less attention.
Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas said that even if Diva’s is forced from Harlow Street, the business could move to another location in Bangor, as long as it were in a commercial zone that allows bars or nightclubs.