June 19, 2018
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Diva’s to stay open for now

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Though Diva’s Gentleman’s Club won’t be closing this week after all, the reprieve could be a temporary one.

Diane Cormier, owner-operator of the exotic dance club located at 190 Harlow St., told city officials on Monday that she was facing eviction as of June 30.

On Tuesday, however, Cormier said she has decided to try to work out an arrangement with her landlord, Thomas Brann, that would allow Diva‘s to stay open while she pays off overdue rent and other costs.

She said she is meeting with Brann on Thursday to see what can be done.

“I love the location,” Cormier said of the space at 190 Harlow St. that Diva’s moved into two years ago after the sale of the State Street building the business had occupied since it opened in 1998. Among the attributes of the Harlow Street site are ample parking and handicapped accessibility, she said.

She also said that as the operator of the business, she feels responsible for the roughly 30 part-time employees who depend on her for work.

“I’m the boss and I take that responsibility,” she said. “We live and we die together.”

Though Brann confirmed Tuesday that Diva’s would not be forced out the building today, he said, “that does not mean she is not under pressure for eviction.”

Brann said that June 30 was the deadline he gave her for a voluntary eviction, whereby he would have allowed her to vacate the building without holding her financially liable for the remainder of her lease.

“She decided not to pick up that option,” he said. He also said that the notice asked that she notify him within five days if she wanted to renegotiate her lease, which did not occur.

What happens next has yet to be determined.

Brann said that his next step likely will be to pursue forcible eviction, a process that would allow Diva’s to stay in the Harlow Street building until a court hearing, which likely would take place in August.

“It might be longer, but I wouldn’t bank on it,” he said, adding that if he prevails in the legal proceedings, the court would issue a seven-day eviction notice.

Brann said he would meet with Cormier on Thursday “because we’re very polite and cooperative people but it would take some strong assurances” from Cormier to change his mind.

For the last several years, Cormier has lobbied the city to relax its zoning ordinance which permits alcohol consumption and nude dancing — but not at the same time.

To comply with the ordinance, Diva’s serves alcohol but requires dancers to wear the equivalent of bikini tops and bottoms, a combination Cormier said hurts business.

“I think it’s unfair,” she said Tuesday, adding that city officials “totally ganged up on me.” The current flat economy also isn’t helping, she said.

Cormier said the recent uncertainty about the future of Diva’s has made her clientele “panicky,” but added that she has seen an outpouring of support since word of the business’s possible demise began to circulate.

Also Tuesday, Cormier maintained that she was not eight months behind on rent but rather three months, plus interest, which she said she hoped to negotiate a lower dollar amount for.

Brann, however, said that Cormier owed him “the equivalent of eight months’ rent,” a figure he said reflected not only overdue rent but water and sewer costs as well as Cormier’s share of the building’s heating costs from the winter before last.

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