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Tabu Lounge Owner Returning to Downtown TC

January 24, 2013
Tabu Lounge Owner Returning to Downtown TC

The owner of the former "showgirls" nightclub Tabu Lounge in downtown Traverse City and current owner of a chain of adult novelty stores is returning to downtown Traverse City. 

Brad Vannatter – owner of eight Fantasies Unlimited adult stores across Michigan, including one in Traverse City – is opening The Laughing Buddha at 514 East Front Street next week. The store will feature a “variety of smoking products, cloths and unique items,” according to Vannatter. In addition, city zoning regulations stipulate that up to 34 percent of the store's retail space can be used for adult merchandise sales at Vannatter's discretion.

Vannatter says his plans now are solely to focus on smoking products, but adds that as “in any business, the consumer drives the products sold. Any good manager listens to what the consumer wants.”

If adult merchandise were to be added, provided the percentage of stock or floor area devoted to such merchandise remained under 35 percent (the point at which the establishment would be deemed an “adult novelty store” and face stricter regulations), Vannatter would not need city approval nor permits to sell pornography and adult products.

Billy Wood, owner of Lifer Skateboard Shop at 502 East Front Street, is unhappy about the prospect of Vannatter moving in.

“As an owner of a family-oriented company, I have serious concerns about this business being next door,” he says. “It doesn't seem fitting with the other businesses here and the vibe we're trying to create for the neighborhood.” Other nearby businesses include To Have and To Hold Bridal Boutique, Epiphany Salon & Spa and The Cooks' House.

TC Mayor Michael Estes says there's “nothing the city can legally do” to prevent Vannatter from selling adult goods if he chooses, but calls the prospect “pretty disappointing.”

“When I look at the prosperity of downtown and the new businesses coming in and thriving...I don't know why we have to go this route,” he says. “I don't know that the people involved are thinking of the good of the whole town.”

Vannatter's return to downtown comes on the heels of run-ins with both Traverse City and Garfield Township officials in the last two years over Tabu Lounge, which operated from January to March 2011 behind Union Street Station and in November and December 2011 at Logan's Landing. Downtown, the “membership-only showgirls club” drew the ire of city officials, who issued a series of citations – first for hookah smoking, then for operating a business despite ongoing building-use concerns – before the club shut down in March 2011.

In December 2011, tenants at Logan's Landing began complaining Tabu Lounge was again up and running, this time in their retail park in Garfield Township. The venue, which Vannatter claims was a “private film studio” for his fiance and adult film actress, Savannah Paige, opened in November 2011 next door to a children's music store, KinderMusik. Several listings on adult and club websites posted under Vannatter's business email address at the time advertised “BYOB, on-premise” parties at “Club Tabu at Logan's Landing” in November and December 2011 – parties to which attendees could bring their own alcohol and engage in sexual activity on-site.

Garfield Township Planning Director Rob Larrea says township officials launched an investigation into the club in December 2011, at which point Vannatter “agreed to close the business immediately.” No charges or citations were issued.

Traverse City zoning administrator David Weston says that if The Laughing Buddha begins selling adult merchandise, it will be the first business to do so in the downtown district as well as within city limits. City zoning officials and code enforcers say they plan to monitor the store closely when it opens.


Most Recent Comments

 
Lisa on January 31, 2013 9:42pm

I have more of a problem with the business owner's reputation, since the last two businesses he owned, he managed to violate local and state laws, and doesn't seem to really care about the good of the community, just his own self-interest. Who knows what he will stoop too next?

Louis on January 30, 2013 1:42pm

Truth is, no one should really judge it until they go into the store. In the meantime you can go to their website at http://thelaughingbuddha.co and look at that.

Kimberly Woods on January 28, 2013 10:58pm

If you do not like what he is selling, do not shop there. Simple as that. I find it quite interesting that people can be so narrow-minded and cannot see the simplicity of things. As someone pointed out, the location is a little out-of-the-way, not right in the center of downtown. It's not as if you are going to have to look into his windows while purchasing movie tickets. Also, Spencer's in the mall does sell some pretty sketchy items, yet no one seems to be bothered by this.

Elizabeth on January 28, 2013 5:13pm

I do not support this. I wish more efforts would be put toward contributing to our society in a positive way, that helps all of us do more good than bad. There are so many other ways that we can express ourselves that is in a healthy way. We all know this industry exists and has its place somewhere, but it isn't a business that increases self respect, intelligence, respect for others, loving relationships & kindness. Wouldn't it be nice to work toward bringing more of that into our society, than working against those core values that generate a strong society.

Billy Wood on January 28, 2013 1:15pm

No one was smoking pot in my store Jim. There are several medical Marijuana smokers in the building and it does tend to smell like it in the store from time to time. That doesn't happen in here but I can see where someone might think that especially there first time in the store. People who come in all the time know the story. I apologize for the poor customer service. Stop in some time and we will hook you up with some stickers. Thank you.

Catrina on January 27, 2013 5:02pm

TC Ticker-thanks for the heads up! Sad to say we are bowing low to entertain such at all anywhere in our area. Part of the downward spiral of our society-Wrong is right-and right is not right but wrong???
I support campaigning against such and encouraging boycotts of such. People want this-then buy it online!
We are a family town-18 public elementary schools/2 middle schools/2 high schools (Public) and then private besides. Heaven help us all!

Robin B on January 27, 2013 3:27pm

I think that if the good people of Traverse City don't want this type of store in their mist then their dollars will speak and it will quietly go out of business.

John on January 27, 2013 8:54am

I think it is great that this store is going in. I will definitely shop there. History has shown legislating morality fails and the people that attempt to do so inevitably become anachronisms (to most of us, they seem anachronistic simply when they talk about doing so).

Free speech IS important. These naysayers need to be able to express their outrage. It will help them get it out of their system and create publicity for the store.

Jeff on January 25, 2013 3:56pm

Oh and you don't have to be 18 to enter Spencer Gifts in the mall. You should see what they sell. The GREAT parents that drop the kids off at the mall for a couple of hours. The kids ALL go into Spencer Gifts. Good Luck!!!!!

KS on January 25, 2013 2:39pm

It is like with the kids who run their parents. Who is in charge here anyway. This is the peoples town let us vote on it and we will get further. It will turn the city into what we do not want or into what our kids should not do or see.

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