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Published December 16 2010

Bada Bing appears shuttered for good

After drawing up remodeling plans for the troubled Bada Bing strip club, Marty Ness suspected something wasn’t right when he saw the billing address provided by the club’s owner. It belonged to the dilapidated, vacant building on the outskirts of Fargo that housed the establishment.

The contract Ness mailed to club owner Mike Benzinger came back unopened. So did the bills for about $4,000 worth of work from Ness’ firm, Lightowler Johnson Associates in Fargo.

And neither the company nor the city of Fargo – which shuttered the club in October for numerous building code violations – have heard from Benzinger for about a month.

With no payment apparently forthcoming, Ness recalled the plans from the city Wednesday. That move effectively pulls the plug on Benzinger’s current efforts to convert a former electronics warehouse at 4349 48th Ave. N. into the state’s only fully nude strip club.

Bada Bing staged a quiet opening in mid-October, slipping in under the radar of city officials in a quiet industrial area off Interstate 29 in Fargo’s extraterritorial zone. The club did not serve alcohol, meaning dancers could be fully nude and patrons could be 18 rather than 21.

It stirred little fanfare, and Benzinger, a 26-year-old Minnesota native, said he wasn’t out to cause trouble.

The honeymoon was short-lived. Police were called to the club on its opening weekend in response to a complaint from The Northern strip club in Fargo, which said Bada Bing employees were handing out fliers in The Northern and trying to hire away The Northern’s dancers.

The police found nothing out of order, but a few days later city inspectors toured the building and found numerous issues that made the space unfit for public occupancy. Among the deficiencies: a lack of fire protection, plumbing, and sewage. The city closed the building until it could be brought up to code.

Benzinger asked the city for recommendations on a firm that could help rework the space, and wound up in touch with Lightowler Johnson. Ness said Benzinger wanted the plans done “in a day or two.” The firm told him that wasn’t feasible but eventually came to an agreement to draw the plans. In late October, Benzinger said the club was about a week away from reopening.

That didn’t happen. Now that Ness has pulled the plans from the city, Benzinger would have to furnish new plans and start the inspection process over again if he still wants to use the space, said Ron Strand, head of inspections for the city of Fargo.

“The owner of the establishment would have to essentially restart his request,” Strand said. “We don’t know that that’s happening. We’re having trouble communicating.”

Both Strand and Ness said they haven’t reached Benzinger in at least four weeks. Ness said phone calls have gone unreturned, the e-mail address Benzinger gave doesn’t appear to work, and the firm doesn’t have a permanent address on file.

Benzinger did not return voice messages from The Forum seeking comment, and has not responded to Forum inquiries since the end of October.

Ness said in 35 years as an architect, he’s never seen a client disappear in comparable fashion.

“It just basically fell apart,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502