BANGOR, Maine — An eviction action against the owner-operator of Diva’s Gentleman’s Club, the city’s only exotic dance club, was dismissed Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
The dismissal was applauded Tuesday night by Diane Cormier, who has been fighting to stay in the space she leases at 190 Harlow St.
She said publicity surrounding her troubles with her landlord had led existing and potential patrons to believe Diva’s had closed its doors.
She said she wanted to make the following statement: “Diva’s is open.”
And Cormier says she aims to keep it that way.
“I’m a really good businesswoman, and I help people,” she said. “I have a lot of people depending on me.”
In addition to her patrons, she said, more than 20 part-time employees are depending on her.
She also wants to recoup the money she has invested in renovations.
Cormier, who had fallen behind on her rent, said in June that business was suffering as a result of the flat economy and a city zoning ordinance that 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. She has lobbied city officials to relax the zoning ordinance for years, but to no avail.
Her landlord, Thomas Brann, gave her a June 30 deadline to leave voluntarily in exchange for not being held financially liable for the remainder of her lease. Cormier, however, opted not to leave and instead tried to work out an arrangement with Brann that would allow Diva’s to stay open while she paid off overdue rent and other costs.
That did not come to pass and Brann initiated formal eviction proceedings shortly thereafter.
On Tuesday, the eviction was tossed out on what Brann’s attorney, F. David Walker, and Cormier’s attorney, Kirk Bloomer, agree was a technicality.
Both said Wednesday that when Brann filed court documents this summer seeking a forcible entry and detainment, he did so before hiring an attorney. Brann filed eviction paperwork as a limited liability corporation, which requires an attorney.
Brann since has hired Walker, who said Wednesday that he would begin the process again and planned to resume the eviction proceedings at the next available court date, which should come up within the next month or two.
Eviction proceedings, Walker said, are conducted about once a month at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Walker said Brann is seeking the eviction on the grounds that Cormier hasn’t been paying rent, hasn’t maintained adequate insurance and made renovations to her space without written consent.
“Basically, all she did was buy a little time,” Walker said. “Ultimately we will obtain the eviction.”
Bloomer, however, said he and Cormier intend to fight it.
“He may not be ultimately successful,” Bloomer said of Brann. “The claims that he is making are disputed.”
Bloomer said Wednesday that he will be taking a hard look at the lease and at the mathematical methodology used to calculate the amount Brann alleges Cormier owes for rent and for her share of the building’s operating expenses.
Diva’s moved to its current location 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, Cormier said this summer.
She also said earlier that 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.