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Neighbors outraged at possible strip club coming to small mountain community

Multiple constituents filed ethics complaints with the state against Central City's mayor.
Signs outside of 130 Main Street in Central City, CO advertise for "Rick's Cabaret" opening in 2024.
Posted at 7:24 PM, Jul 03, 2024

CENTRAL CITY, Colo. — Neighbors in Central City are outraged that a strip club could possibly open on their Main Street.

Peter Droege was born and raised in the small community located 35 miles west of Denver and never thought he would want to move, but the possibility of a new business opening on Main Street is making him reconsider.

"I will sell my property and move," said Droege, making clear his stance on a strip club potentially opening this year.

Eric Langan is the president and CEO of RCI's Hospitality Holdings, a company known for restaurants and strip clubs nationwide. The business already has several locations operating in Colorado.

Langan's business bought 130 Main Street in Central City for just over $2 million back in 2022, according to Gilpin County assessor records, with the intent of opening a cabaret and steakhouse.

"You've got people that come up here to gamble. They stay in their hotel rooms. You're on a hot streak on the blackjack table and you want to take a break, what do you do? I'll tell you what you do here. You go to your hotel room and sleep or you drive back to Denver. Right? I mean, there's not much entertainment here," said Langan when explaining the appeal of opening a cabaret in a city of about 800 people.

RCI previously applied for a gaming license to also open a casino in the building, but Langan said the company recently pulled the request.

Many people living in Central City were under the impression that when a casino was part of the plan, the strip club was not. However, Langan told Denver7 the strip club has always been a part of the proposed business.

As Central City's ordinance currently stands, sexually oriented businesses, including adult cabarets, must be more than 1,000 feet away from "other sexually-oriented businesses; lots that are developed with dwelling units; residential zone boundaries; schools, public parks, and child care centers that are located within the city limits; and places of assembly."

On May 21, two motions were on the Central City City Council agenda to consider changes to the land use code, which would decrease the restricted proximity to 150 feet. Before the city council could take any action, Central City Mayor Jeremy Fey moved to table the motions after community outrage at the meeting.

"I like the economic or the potential economic effect of it, but... I'm not necessarily a fan of strip clubs. I've gone to plenty of them in my yesteryears, but I don't do it anymore," said Fey, who has been the mayor of Central City for close to six years.

Community members responded adversely in 2022 when the planning commission initially considered changing the ordinance.

"I believe that RCI had spent enough time on the ground here that there wouldn't be as much disfavor and anger about it as there has been, to be honest. There I go for having expectations," said Fey when asked why he believed neighbors would react differently this year.

Last month, two community members filed complaints with Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission against the mayor, citing his personal relationship with Langan. Fey confirmed with Denver7 Investigates he considers Langan a friend and flew on an RCI-owned plane with Langan to Texas.

The mayor said he would recuse himself from any votes impacting Langan's business, including a vote to change the land use code.

Langan owns several other buildings in Central City. According to Denver7's reporting partners at the Denver Post, one of RCI's businesses in Denver, PT's Showroom, shut down for two weeks after "an undercover police operation determined that dancers there were engaged in prostitution."

When asked, Langan said there is "nothing" he can say to community members in Central City who are concerned about the operation.

"They want this town to stay exactly the same forever. This town cannot stay the same forever. It will... It's deteriorating. They're losing historical properties every year," said Langan.

Fey admitted "it would be a concern" that amending the land use code could encourage other sexually oriented businesses to fill the many vacant buildings on Main Street.

"It's a tough one for me to get around my mind around, to be honest," said Fey.

The city's planning commission is holding a work session on Wednesday night and will be discussing sexually oriented businesses, according to the agenda.

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