New Westminster strip club owner 'blindsided' by petition to close his club
The owner of the Paramount Gentlemen’s Club in New Westminster says he was “blindsided” by a petition initiated by Coquitlam high school students to have his establishment closed down.
Steven Mountford is upset Social Justice 12 classes at Dr. Charles Best secondary did not contact him to get the other side of the story. During the women’s studies portion of the course, teacher Ken Ipe said the 60 students studied “the negative effects of stripping, prostitution and pornography.” As part of their final project the students chose a course of action they hope will result in New Westminster council closing the strip club down, but city officials say that’s not possible.
The students gathered Saturday afternoon on the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street to collect signatures for a petition. The first Mountford heard about the petition was when the media came calling Thursday.
“I believe in everyone’s freedom of speech and right to protest, first and foremost. But to date no one from the school has contacted me to open a dialogue,” said Mountford. “I find it kind of appalling if you’re in an education system and you don’t [present the other side]. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
The Paramount has 15 to 30 dancers working the main stage, VIP rooms and private rooms. Mountford said he has owned the establishment, which does not serve liquor, for 10 years and it has been open for nearly 20.
“We serve juice, we’re one block from the police station. In 10 years we’ve never had a problem here,” said Mountford. “I’m a little disturbed someone’s coming from Coquitlam to bother an establishment that has been here for 20 years.”
Mountford said the students are going after regular people who have mortgages, car payments and child care costs to meet, and they’re all concerned for their jobs.
“I don’t know what the agenda the school teacher has,” said Mountford. “That’s an injustice to teach children not to explore options and talk to people.
“If you don’t like the laws, change the laws. Don’t send the watchdogs on a company that is a legitimate business. We pay taxes, we employ people … We’re not bad people here. I don’t understand why we’ve been singled out as some gateway to hell. I’m not even mad, I’m hurt. It doesn’t seem fair.”
In a small dialogue on the street Saturday in front of television cameras, student Adam MacDonald told a group of Paramount employees and supporters with picket signs of their own, “We’re not targeting your guys’s jobs. That’s not what we’re here to do.”
“You are, you’re trying to shut down our club,” said the club’s manager Taylor, who is married to Mountford, before saying with some incredulity, “And you’re going to offer us career counselling.”
Supporter Liz Green told CTV News, “The women are doing a legitimate job. They’re getting paid for it. Do they want the women out on the streets again, whatever, looking for work?”
Coquitlam Coun. Selina Robinson and New Westminster Coun. Lorrie Williams showed up to support the students.
“It’s good for young people to demonstrate, take peaceful action, and it’s encouraging for them to know what the process is. They also have to know the restrictions and how things move,” said Williams, who did not sign the petition. “It was an exercise in democracy and I liked the freedom of expression that they had, and I thought the research they had done was commendable.”
While as a woman she would prefer that the Paramount did not exist, Williams said there’s not much the city can do about it because it’s a legitimate business. At one time, she noted, there was offensive wording on the marquee but it was taken down quickly.
City bylaw enforcement director Keith Coueffin said the city can only consider revoking or suspending a business licence if there’s reasonable cause, such as if the business was not complying with regulations or because of nuisances or disturbances.
“The city is not aware of any violations of any regulations or policing concerns or community disturbances,” said Coueffin. “It is a legal business which is complying with all regulations.”
He added municipalities don’t have the authority to regulate a business based on morality.
However about 10 years ago, council changed all commercial area zonings to prohibit adult entertainment. Since the Paramount is an existing business that has been around for about 20 years, the restriction can’t be imposed retroactively.
“The adult entertainment use is considered to be a legal non-conforming use,” said Coueffin.
New Westminster Coun. Bill Harper said if the Paramount’s business licence was pulled, the city might find itself in court.
“Once you grant a business licence, the rationale for pulling it is more difficult,” said Harper.