A famous — or infamous — strip joint between East Millinocket and Millinocket is gone.
La Casa Gentlemen’s Club, a motel and topless club in Township A Range 7 off Route 11, was being reduced to a pile of rubble Thursday. Its new owner, Lawrence MacKenzie, is razing the two buildings to make way for a retail gun shop and shooting range he will build.
His S&S Weapons LLC facility will feature four shooting lanes about 25 yards long, plus a shop about 30 feet by 60 feet. MacKenzie said that while the Katahdin region has many stores that sell guns ― at least four, according to a google search ― none feature an indoor shooting range.
“There were a couple of competing gun places when I started this adventure and they have all closed. The closest place is in Lincoln,” MacKenzie said. “There is no actual place to shoot out here. People are used to shooting outdoors or in sandpits and towns are closing that down because they don’t want the liability.”
“A lot of places do safety classes, but they don’t have a safe indoor place to teach the hands-on aspects of it,” he added.
The grandson of East Millinocket native and 2014 winner of $590.5 million Powerball drawing winner Gloria MacKenzie, the 31-year-old MacKenzie is a small-engine mechanic with a degree from a motorcycle mechanics school in Florida. He said he picked the site because it sits amid some of the most gorgeous sportsmen’s ground in Maine, between Dolby Pond and Partridge Brook Flowage.
MacKenzie conceded that the end of northern Penobscot County’s sole exotic dancer’s venue might not be seen as a loss by many residents. The motel component of La Casa, an L-shaped wedge of small apartments, has been closed since its former owner’s death in 2007.
Previous owners Carolyn Friel and her ex-husband, area businessman Wes Proctor, owned the business since 1988 and turned the club topless in 1990, which caused considerable local controversy.
News of the razing made the rounds on social media. A Facebook page dedicated to Katahdin area police scanner traffic had a long column of comments on it.
“The building may be gone but the fun memories will last forever,” one subscriber said.
“Don’t you mean the mammories?” another responded.
“Isn’t that the truth. I spent A LOT of years there and met a lot of people. Some I’m still friends with to this day. Sure was fun … most of the time,” a woman added.
The club portion, with its backlit sign and Patrick Nagel or Nagel-esque reproduction, has been closed for about five years.
The dance club was almost eerie the last time MacKenzie was in there, he said.
“The bar was left kind of weird. Everything was still set for them [to reopen],” MacKenzie said.
The coolers were full of beer. Liquor bottles still lined the bar back and glasses were still on tables. Kegs remained connected to taps, although MacKenzie seemed to shudder at the thought of drinking any of it, the beer being likely skunked due to the building’s lack of electricity.
“There was some beer in the glasses and it was all moldy,” he said.
The motel rooms were similarly frozen in time, MacKenzie said.
People seemed to get a kick out of the closing of La Casa, he said. Several appeared with cameras to document the end of the joint, although several expressed satisfaction with his plans to open the gun shop, in January.
This is a heady time for MacKenzie. Besides working to launch his business, he is due to marry Samantha Lyons on Saturday. His new enterprise has been something of a dry run for married life, MacKenzie said.
“We,” he said, “are doing almost all of it ourselves.”
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