Morning Sentinel
Board OKs new construction of topless business
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Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 07/15/2009

VASSALBORO -- The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop can operate once again in a new building at the same Route 3 location, the Planning Board decided late Tuesday night.

The approval for owner Donald Crabtree includes an expansion of the previous business, allowing longer hours of operation and more seating capacity -- from 25 to 80 serviceable patrons.

Crabtree said he plans to get to work on constructing a new building himself this summer, with the help of crews he knows while he worked as a builder in Ellsworth for 15 years.

The previous building, part of an old motel complex, burned to the ground during the early morning hours of June 3.

The State Fire Marshal's Office said arson was to blame and is still investigating the case and seeking a suspect or suspects.

"If I'm going to save this business, we need to get into a new building immediately," Crabtree told the Planning Board.

The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop, which opened Feb. 23, featured topless waitresses and waiters serving coffee and doughnuts and was open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Crabtree did not have the property insured, though he has vowed to rebuild the business.

The destructive fire came just hours after Crabtree had finished meeting with the Planning Board, where he asked for changes to his existing business, including extended hours and allowing topless dancers and music. At the time, Crabtree aimed to walk a fine line by obtaining approval to make his business more like a strip club, but without requiring a new permit for the coffee shop.

Tuesday's approval did not include topless dancers and music.

At town meeting on June 8, residents approved an ordinance that regulates where, when and how "sexually oriented businesses" may operate in town.

The ordinance, which does not affect Crabtree's grandfathered business, places restrictions on adult businesses.

Members of the Planning Board said Crabtree's request for extended hours and parking for employees would be an extension of his existing approval and would not require a new permit.

But on Tuesday, board members questioned whether Crabtree would be financially able to construct a new building, since he did not have the property insured and said he would not seek a loan from a bank.

Chairwoman Virginia Brackett said the concern stems from a town zoning condition that Vassalboro not end up with a "half-built building" if the proposed project isn't completed.

Crabtree said he fully intends open anew.

"I'm pretty sure I can pull this together," Crabtree said.

Scott Monroe -- 861-9253

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