Published October 20 2010
Club featuring nude dancers tiptoes into outskirts of Fargo
There was little advance notice and no fanfare. The cries of protest from area residents and litany of city meetings on the topic – prominent fixtures in the openings of strip clubs in years past – didn’t materialize.
When owner Michael Benzinger opened the doors Saturday night at 4349 48th Ave. N, those who didn’t know the club was coming might have missed it altogether.
“Nobody seems bothered by it,” Benzinger said. “I don’t believe it’s hurting anybody.”
Benzinger, a 26-year-old Minnetonka, Minn., native with a background in roofing, said he was attracted to Fargo by radio ads encouraging businesses to come to the area. Bada Bing (named for a fictional club in the television series “The Sopranos”) is his first strip club, he said, but a few of his brothers and other family members have owned clubs as well.
Bada Bing sits in Fargo’s extraterritorial zone, outside city limits but under city zoning control. He said he picked the club’s out-of-the-way location because he didn’t want to stir trouble or force the issue of a nude club with area residents.
“I don’t want to have to bug anybody,” he said.
Because the club complies with the city’s zoning ordinances for adult entertainment venues – it isn’t within 1,250 feet of a church, school, park, another strip club, or an establishment that serves alcohol – Benzinger wasn’t required to meet with city officials before opening. Because the club serves no alcohol, dancers can be fully nude and can admit 18-year-old patrons. The club has a cover charge, and also sells water, soda, and other nonalcoholic beverages.
Benzinger said Bada Bing is the only fully nude club of its kind in the state. He said he hasn’t heard objections from nearby businesses.
Tim Pederson, owner of Horvick Inc., which is just south of Bada Bing, said his business hours don’t overlap with the club’s. He said he and his employees are gone by the time the club opens, and doesn’t consider the club to be an issue.
The club, which employs about seven dancers on weeknights and as many as 20 on weekends, had a busy first few days, bringing a few hundred customers in the door during peak hours, Benzinger said.
Its arrival has otherwise been quiet, a stark contrast to previous strip club dust-ups in the area. The opening of the Bears Den in Shelly, Minn., in 2004 prompted an outcry among residents and talk of zoning ordinance changes. When Fargo examined its own strip club laws a decade and a half ago, the debate was fierce and prompted lawsuits.
Benzinger said he’s encountered no such stumbling blocks. His only dispute to date has been with another strip club – The Northern in Fargo. Early Sunday morning, Fargo police received a complaint that Bada Bing representatives were distributing fliers in The Northern and trying to hire away The Northern’s dancers.
The police passed the complaint on to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over Bada Bing. Captain Rick Majerus of the sheriff’s office said a deputy was dispatched to Bada Bing, but found nothing out of order.
The Forum reached a manager at The Northern on Tuesday afternoon who said he didn’t know the details of the incident and wasn’t able to comment. Benzinger, for his part, said exotic dancers “are independent contractors,” and aren’t tied to a single club.
“I think they took it the wrong way,” he said of The Northern.
Majerus said Bada Bing won’t get any special attention from his officers unless it proves to be a problematic spot.
Unless there are specific complaints about the club, he said, “We’re going to treat them like any other business.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502