Despite drag complaints, Ivory Lounge will remain open in Sarasota

Sarasota – Residents of The Plaza at Five Points condominium complex in downtown Sarasota, are not fans of drag queens or late night music.

That is according to a complaint the complex’s association filed with the City of Sarasota against the Ivory Lounge last fall, which hosts several drag queen-themed shows a week. Among them, Drag Queen Pillow Fighting and Drag Queen Jell-O Wrestling.

The residents asked the city to revoke the Ivory Lounge’s nightclub permit because they believe it is operating illegally by having such events. The city, however, responded Jan. 14 to say that the club is operating within its legal parameters.

Those activities within the club at 1413 Main St. don’t break any rules, according to the City Attorney’s office, which has rejected claims that the Ivory Lounge was operating as an adult business.

The original complaint, filed by the association’s attorney, Stephen Thompson, claimed that noise from the nightclub is worse than ever, and said the city was being duped by what was really happening inside.

I am sure these uses were not contemplated when the city commissioners approved the original conditional use permit, Thompson wrote. This is not the ‘upscale martini lounge for a mature, educated customer’ approved by the city.

However, since there is no record of nudity at the club, it can remain open and has not violated any codes, attorney Deputy City Attorney Michael Connolly wrote to the association.

Obviously, all bars are for ‘activities adult in nature,’  Connolly wrote. But activities that are adult in nature do not make an Adult Use.

He added that even though the association somehow believed the Ivory Lounge would be an upscale martini lounge, that has no bearing on the case.

“It is very doubtful that the United States and Florida constitutions would allow the City Zoning Code to specify an ‘upscale martini lounge for a mature, educated customer’ as a use allowed by conditional use permit,” Connolly said in his letter to the association. “There is no evidence that the Ivory Lounge is being conducted beyond what was intended as a bar, tavern or nightclub. Consequently, there is no factual or legal basis to revoke the conditional use approval.”

Thompson, the condo association’s attorney, told the Sarasota Herald Tribune he was meeting with residents to decide what to do next.

For Sarasota resident Joshua Beadle, who works Cream Thursdays at the bar, the city attorney’s decision is a huge win for the lounge, which he supports and where he holds several events each week.

“Today the city made a clear statement about the future of Ivory Lounge,” he wrote in a letter to Watermark. “All motivations used by the residents against Ivory Lounge; sound, vibrations, adult entertainment, cabaret, striptease, illegal operation and an immature crowd, have all been discarded by the city as none of it is true. We are a nightclub and we operate as one!”

He said the bar plans to celebrate with patrons this weekend, and he’s expecting a blow-out crowd.

“On Cream Thursdays at Ivory Lounge till midnight we will have a free glass of champagne for anyone who is there,” he said. “On both Friday and Saturday everybody drinks free (wells) between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.”

He also said there won’t be a cover charge at the club for those arriving before 11:30 p.m.

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