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Column: The wrong kind of attraction?

The Main Attraction is a thriving business that employs some 60 people. But even though it’s right across the street from the Chamber of Commerce, you won’t find any mention of it in the Chamber’s Business Directory.The Main Attraction is a booming enterprise that maintains a stable of attractive young women who pirouette around a pole, take off their day-glow tops and make eye contact with you as if to say you’re the one she wants to hang out with.

Nicknamed the Purple Church, the Coast Highway bar/strip joint is packed on weekends. It’s the only business of its kind in North County and has been thriving for decades (Camp Pendleton is just a mile away).

The featured dancer on stage has the rapt attention of all the guys sitting around the big U-shaped stage.

When they aren’t on stage the dancers, named “Cassandra” or “Penelope,” work the room and recruit guys to cough up an extra $20 for some serious bumping and grinding in the dimly lit lap dance area of the bar.

You may believe this is demeaning to women. And you may maintain that it’s wrong to squeeze cash out of the lonely Marine from Iowa who regrets the next day when he realizes he dropped $80 in one night.

Yet it’s perfectly legal. Nevertheless, some in the city of Oceanside want the place to close or move to a less prominent part of town. “All night long the girls are standing out front in their bathrobes smoking cigarettes,” said one Oceanside insider who says the Main Attraction is projecting the wrong image to people as they enter Oceanside.

About 10 years ago the city bought the old Playgirl building on Pier View Way, a full-nudity strip club that did not sell alcohol. That building now houses the Surf Museum.

To get the Purple Church to move, the Oceanside insider says the city could use something called, “friendly eminent domain,” where the city would offer cash and tax incentives to get it to move.

The insider says that is less likely to happen now that redevelopment is over. City staff and council could still get the Main Attraction to move. “But the city just doesn’t have $1 million now anyway,” said the insider. “One time, a few years ago, a developer offered (the owner) $5 million for the building and the land and he turned them down.”

The fact is the Main Attraction serves food every day from 11 a.m. to 8 at night. The place employs bouncers and cooks and plenty of ladies.

A regular beer is $6. A Corona is $7. Admission is $9 on weekends. This place is making money hand over fist. I trust that they are paying their fair share of sales tax.

Some wonder if the city’s other saucy downtown business, the Romantix X-rated gift and media store on Pier View Way, may be following the example of Escondido’s F-Street, which closed down a few months ago. It went away not because of a nagging city council, but because it’s harder to make a profit in porn when your customers have the Internet.

City Manager Peter Weiss says there is nothing out front of Romantix that screams “porn,” and that Romantix has generally been cooperative with the city.

He reckons that when the new hotel opens, and as downtown rents increase, that Romantix may want to find a cheaper place to rent. “The city has gotten more complaints from a lingerie store on Mission Avenue,” he said.

Weiss admitted that when the Playgirl was purchased by the city there was talk then of also buying out the adjacent Romantix, but that now, without redevelopment, the point is moot.

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton writes columns for The Coast News, the San Diego Reader and is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at [email protected]