Hanover County’s Eminent Domain Efforts Thwarted: North Carolina Strip Club Secured

After over a month of mounting public criticism, the government of Hanover County, North Carolina, has decided to drop its plans to seize the strip club adjacent to its government center building. On Monday night, the Hanover County Commission voted unanimously to rescind its authorization of eminent domain for the Cheetah Premier Gentlemen’s Club, local press reported yesterday. “Over the last month we have explored it and we have engaged in some productive dialogue with the property owners and the business owner,” Commissioner Dane Scalise told Port City Daily, saying the county will now explore a voluntary purchase of the club. The conflict over the Cheetah Club began in early November, when the county commission voted, again unanimously to authorize spending $2.3 million on the forced taking of the club. The presence of the Cheetah Club next to Hanover’s government center building has long been a source of embarrassment for some in the county government. One commissioner has said, “the optics have always been an issue.” North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell criticized county commissioners about their offices’ proximity to a strip club at a hearing earlier this year. At that meeting, local press noted, the property was only referred to by its tax identification number. County staff presenting the eminent domain ordinance said only that the property was being taken for “public use.” Once news of the seizure broke, the county said publicly that the club was needed to expand parking at the county’s government center. “I truly believe what set this off was State Treasurer Folwell’s comment about the government center being built close to a gentlemen’s club, just an offhand comment,” said Michael Barber, a lawyer for the Cheetah Club, to Port City Daily last month. In comments to the paper yesterday, Barber applauded commissioners for dropping their eminent domain efforts. “60 hardworking New Hanover County residents can rest a little easier that their jobs are not in immediate jeopardy,” he said. Provided the government is taking your property for a public use (which has been very broadly defined by the U.S. Supreme Court), property owners have few legal means to prevent a seizure. Instead, they’re left trying to win the court of public opinion. That can be easier for some property owners than others. In the Cheetah Club’s case, it appears the local community was exercised enough about losing a valuable amenity to get county commissioners to back off.