Lights out at strip club

EVERETT — The sign in front of Honey’s said Snohomish County’s only strip club was still open.

The parking lot was full and a steady flow of traffic came and went on Wednesday afternoon.

But at 2 this morning, the business was scheduled to close for good. Federal officials have ordered that it be bulldozed.

The company that ran the club, LLC Everett 1, agreed in federal court last week to shut the business, pay the government what the land is worth, and demolish the building.

“It’s about time,” former Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart said Wednesday. “It’ll be good for the rest of the community. I’m very glad it’s happening.”

Bart has called Honey’s a mecca for drugs and vice. Sheriff’s deputies over the years conducted numerous raids and arrested dancers for prostitution.

He said closing the club is a good move forward.

“It makes me think of Patti Berry,” Bart said.

Berry was 26 years old on July 31, 1995. She was killed after she left the club for home. The dancer’s homicide remains unsolved.

In recent years the club came under the scrutiny of the FBI. Undercover agents visited Honey’s several times and found dancers engaged in illegal sex activities. Managers allegedly knew about the prostitution.

As of Wednesday, 163 women ages 19 to 44 had active licenses that would allow them to have worked as erotic dancers at the club, Snohomish County licensing manager Vicki Lubrin said. There are five people with manager’s licenses.

Club officials and their attorneys refused to comment Wednesday. It’s unclear how many people will lose their jobs.

A date has not been set for the club’s demolition, officials said Wednesday.

Three of Honey’s owners, David Carl Ebert, 62, of Monroe; Leroy Richard Christiansen, 68, of Seattle; and Michael Fueston, 62, of Tacoma, pleaded guilty to prostitution-related or racketeering charges.

The three men, associates of Seattle strip club operator Frank Colacurcio Sr., entered the guilty pleas April 29 in U.S. District Court as part of an agreement reached with federal prosecutors.

The trio also ran other Puget Sound-area strip clubs including Rick’s in Seattle, Sugar’s in Shoreline and Fox’s in Tacoma. They avoided jail time by shuttering the clubs and forfeiting the properties to the federal government. The clubs’ combined value is about $4.5 million, officials said.

Colacurcio, 93, of Lake Forest Park, and his son, Frank Jr., 48, of Seattle, still are awaiting trial, now scheduled for January 2011.

“The clubs have been part of an ongoing criminal enterprise for years,” said Todd Greenberg, an assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case. He said one of the government’s goals all along was to close the clubs for the benefit of the community.

“It has nothing to do with the fact that they’re strip clubs,” he said. “These were clubs that operated illegally for years, with prostitution being promoted and permitted.”

Honey’s first obtained a license to operate in Snohomish County in 1988.

It’ll be hard to find people who will miss Honey’s, Sheriff John Lovick said Wednesday.

“Nothing positive came out of that place,” he said Wednesday. “I certainly don’t know anyone who will be sorry to see it go.”

Jeff Green of Access Mobility Systems, a business across Highway 99 from the club, said he noticed that business at Honey’s appeared to be good for its final week. Honey’s parking lot was consistently full, he said.

Down the street, Psalms Nakihei, who works at Bobby’s Hawaiian Style Restaurant, said she was pleased the club was closing.

Still, she wasn’t sure if the club’s demise will change the neighborhood or eliminate prostitution.

“You still have those coffee stands that do that do the same thing,” she said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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