Residents fight gentleman's club over zoning change

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Residents of one Indianapolis neighborhood plan to fight a long-time business over a minor zoning change.

They say Lenny's Genteman's Club at 255 West Morris, just south of downtown, is a nuisance and blight on the area, a charge the owners strongly dispute.

Mobro Investments, LLC bought the strip club a year and a half ago. It includes the main building and an adjacent one, which needs a variance if Lenny's is to continue using it.

Sherry Jones is one of the neighbors who plans to fight the zoning change. Jones has lived behind Lenny's for years without any major problems she says, until the new owners took over.

"It's the crowds they're bringing in, all the noise at all hours, the beer bottles and syringes (left behind)," Jones said.

She said the club often stays open well beyond the 3 a.m. closing.

"It scares me," Jones said. "They've been robbed, had shootings. I've seen the police reports."

Data provided by IMPD shows police have been called to Lenny's 41 times, so far this year, with 11 reports filed, what police call a "significant increase" over year's past.

Reports include "large disturbances" and other incidents, such as shots fired.

Jones and others aren't just fighting the zoning change.

Judith Essex said "the ultimate goal is to see it closed and have a reputable business there."

Essex moved to the neighborhood (formerly known as the Concord area) from Zionsville last year. She said she was drawn by a neighborhood on the rebound, one close to downtown, that's starting to see a lot of reinvestment.

"We're working hard to build a new image," she said. "We're trying to promote this as a family-friendly neighborhood and the city is starting to pay attention to us."

Republican Councilor Jeff Miller, who represents the area, agrees. He said the city sees the area as primed for growth and redevelopment.

"Our goal is not to cause hardship on the owners, but to do what's best for the neighborhood," he said.

Miller said what he'd like to see is the strip club phased out.

"It's nothing against the owners. They're trying to run a business," he said, "but we have to find the best, most positive use for this...and start taking the steps to get there."

One of the owners, Jeff Moe, expressed frustration over the battle. He said they've spent "a lot of money fixing the place up," as well as adding security cameras and more security staff.

He they'd also bought several nearby houses to further improve the area.

As for the 41 calls to police? While Moe said there had been a handful of incidents, he said many calls to police came from the club itself on minor things like forgery. He said since buying the club, Lenny's hadn't been cited once by excise police.

The request for a variance goes before a zoning board September 3. If it's declined, it doesn't shut the club down, but it means they can't use the additional space.

Lenny's liquor license is also up for renewal in October, another issue Jones and others plan to fight.

"We want it gone. We've had enough," Jones said.