Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Eldridge denies claims of nudity

County officials investigating new cabaret

March 21, 2001

A former Leavenworth County commissioner maintains nothing illegal is occurring at his month-old club, even though sheriff's officers last week seized records from the business.

Last week, sheriff's officers took records from the new club, Whispers Carbaret, as well as from another business operated by former commissioner Wayne Eldridge and his wife, Vicki. Officers were seeking information to further support charges that the club has violated the county's resolution against topless dancing.

"We went in on a search warrant, looking for some records," said Sheriff Herb Nye. "We were looking for records of the Whispers establishment. The warrants were brought about as a result of a visit by undercover officers."

Those officers, the sheriff said, saw dancers who were "in the state of semi-nudity" at the club, which is adjacent to Ma Belles, on Kansas Highway 7, north of U.S. Highway 24-40.

"We'll look at what was seized in the records, and probably some subpoenas will be issued," the sheriff said. "We're assisting the county attorney's office with anything they want to do on it."

But Wayne Eldridge, who served on the county commission until January, says his club is following the letter of the law.

"It's not topless," he said. "They're wearing what is more or less like bikinis, which you would see at any public swimming pool, like halter tops, things like that. It's within the limitations of any resolution."

Last summer, the Leavenworth County Commission, chaired by Eldridge, adopted a resolution that prohibits nude dancing and sexual activity in public places and rural areas of the county.

Each violation of the county resolution carries a jail term of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $500, according to David Van Parys, county counselor.

Van Parys wrote a letter to Vicki Eldridge recently.

"It basically said that if such activity in violation of the resolution was taking place, it should cease and desist," Van Parys said.

Last Thursday, he received a response from Dick Bryant, the Eldridges' Kansas City, Mo., attorney.

"Basically, their response was that they deny any breach of the resolution," Van Parys said.

The county counselor said he's not sure what his next step will be.

If the county would pursue prosecution of any violation, he said, it would be handled by the county attorney as a criminal matter or as a civil matter through Van Parys' office. A third option, Van Parys said, would be to seek a court-issued cease and desist order, something that would require a hearing.

Attempts to reach the county attorney were unsucessful.

Last summer, County Commissioner Don Navinsky had asked Van Parys to determine whether the county could broaden a 1991 county resolution because Navinsky said he'd heard rumors that so-called juice bars were planning to open in Leavenworth County.

The commission passed the resolution, on a 3-0 vote.

The rumor had centered on Eldridge's business. At the time, Eldridge adamantly denied the rumor, saying it was politically motivated because Eldridge was seeking re-election to the commission.

"My wife is livid," he said in an interview last summer. "They tried to get this out before the primary election. If you knew my wife and the family, I could no more get by with having a juice bar. I'm sure there are going to be some lawsuits. I know there will."

But Eldridge said recently that his attorney told him that he should test the county resolution.

"He says how to operate it," he said. "He calls all the shots. He says you're not violating anything."

He said he talked with his wife about the attorney's proposition.

"It blew her mind when all of that came out before, last summer," he said. "She said, 'Why don't we do that and give them something to talk about.' She says, 'right now I don't care what you do with it.' Somebody accuses me of doing something, I'll probably do it."

Eldridge said his attorney told him that the recent furor including stories in area newspapers and on Kansas City television actually is a godsend.

"He says it's the best advertising in the world," he said.

And, as for choosing a name of the club, Eldridge said that was a no-brainer.

"Everybody was whispering about it," he said.

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