From Thongs to Rock `N' Roll
Burmeister, Caren, The Florida Times Union
ORANGE PARK -- Haney Sweda, owner of the Gentleman's Club, vowed
earlier this year to take Clay County Sheriff Scott Lancaster
"to the wall" in an effort to keep his scantily clothed dancers
Now, the only bikini-clad women in the club off Blanding
Boulevard hang on a wall calendar in an office. Harmonica and
guitar players have replaced undulating blondes wearing high-cut
On Dec. 4, the Gentleman's Club -- Clay County's only erotic
dance spot -- switched its format to rock and blues. That means
more time for talent like Joe Sample, Spanish-influenced
guitarist Ottmar Liebert and former Jefferson Starship guitarist
The raids and arrests in January had little to do with the
change, Sweda said.
"It was a straight business decision," he said. "We just
decided to take the club in a new direction."
Nearly a year ago, undercover sheriff's deputies raided the
Gentleman's Club and arrested 12 dancers plus Sweda, his partner
Bernie Smith, and the club manager on charges of lewd and
lascivious behavior and violating Clay County's adult
Lancaster said the dancers' costumes revealed their breasts and
buttocks and said the dancers had erotic physical contact with
customers and simulated sex acts on stage.
Sweda characterized the raid as a witchhunt. He still insists
his dancers' dress and behavior complied with the adult
"It was not much different from a bikini contest," he said.
Since then, Sweda and his colleagues have pleaded to
misdemeanor charges and been sentenced to probation and fines.
The club still faces administrative fines from the Department of
Business and Professional Regulation.
But the real impact has been on his business, Sweda said.
"Customers would ask: `What happened here? It was more fun
before,' " he said.
They would leave and go to Jacksonville, where they had a
choice of erotic or nude dance clubs, he said.
The raid could have jeopardized Sweda's liquor license, the
cornerstone of the Gentleman's Club and its companion lounge,
Shades Nightclub. …