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January 31, 2013

Business owner begins petition drive against Men's Night activities

TRAVERSE CITY — A downtown business owner rebuffed by his peers wants to ask voters to put a crimp in what he called the "drunken debauchery" of Men's Night.

Jim Nash, owner of the Dune Berry, said he will begin a petition drive for an ordinance that puts a halt to "open burlesque-type shows in store windows" and retailers that give away alcohol outside their store. Nash said the Downtown Traverse City Association that sponsors the holiday event was less than receptive to his concerns, so he will attempt to go straight to the voters.

"To have the semi-burlesque type stuff in full view of the street starting at 5 p.m., it shouldn't be right in the face of people," Nash said. "This isn't Amsterdam. This is family-friendly Traverse City."

Nash cited both the Sunglass Shoppe and Brilliant Books for the offensive entertainment.

It wasn't semi-burlesque at Brilliant Books, it was burlesque, said store owner Peter Makin. The Bayside Bombshells Burlesque Troupe performed inside his store and not in the window.

"It's really bawdy comedy. They do regular shows all over town," Makin said. "They are quite tasteful. It's nothing lewd or inappropriate."

Makin said the entertainment was appropriate and keeping with the tradition of downtown Traverse City on Men's Night, when stores give away free food, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. He suggested Nash, whose store opened in 2012, accept the city instead of trying to change it.

"It's something for him to try to impose his morality on the rest of us," Makin said. "He doesn't have to participate."

Nash said he can trace his ancestry back to the founders of Traverse City and he cares about the city's image. He's not against serving alcohol, but said Men's Night has turned into a "drinkfest for the guys" with very few doing any shopping. He had just a few sales in his women's clothing boutique.

Jeff Joubran, owner of the Sweet Pea, a maternity and baby store, said it's one of his busiest nights of the year and they have to bring in extra people to staff it.

"Talking to many businesses downtown, Men's Night is a great night and it has been for many, many years," said Joubran, who is also president of the Downtown Traverse City Association.

The association spends a little money to promote the event, Joubran said, but it's in no position to tell merchants how to run their business. Participation in the event is purely voluntary.

Joubran declined to comment on dancers in the windows, but said overall the December event was tamer than 2011.

City Manager Ben Bifoss said there were no problems downtown and the concern about people carrying open alcohol into the street doesn't occur as often as many people believe.

To obtain an ordinance by petition, Nash will have to draft petition and ordinance language and have it reviewed by the city attorney as to its form, said city Clerk Benjamin Marentette. He then must obtain 630 signatures from city residents and submit the petitions to the city commission.

The commission can either adopt the ordinance or put it before voters in November.

"If he wants to change some of our zoning, all the power to him," said Mayor Michael Estes. "It's everyone's right to do so. But so far, I'm not seeing anything that the city has done improperly in terms of current zoning. He would have to go thru the process."

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