JUNEAU — If Dodge County wants a Juneau strip club to disappear, it will have to do something about it.
That “something,” according to the Rev. Gene Schmidt, is to buy Solomon Gentlemen’s Club at 112 E. Oak St. and convert it into a performing arts center.
Schmidt presented the idea to the Dodge County Executive Committee on Tuesday morning and didn’t get much of a response.
County Board and Executive Committee member Dennis Schmidt (no relation to Gene Schmidt) later summarized, “Our consensus is that there is no money for this kind of thing in the budget. As far as Juneau is concerned, they already have a community center that is taxpayer funded.”
The building has an assessed value of $700,000, although the asking price is around $400,000. According to owner Mike Siegel, two strip club owners are interested in the building, which has been on the market for more than seven months.
Schmidt is music minister at Christian Life Family Church in Watertown, is pastor at Hope Fellowship Church in Wisconsin Dells and is vice president of Hand of Help Ministry. He is also establishing a church at 144 E. Oak St. in Juneau, where a “Not in Our Town” office is dedicated to ending sex trafficking in Juneau and beyond.
Allegations of prostitution, drug use and other illegal activities have been made against some gentlemen’s clubs, in Dodge County.
At the meeting Tuesday Schmidt represented a Watertown group called the Christian Leaders Coalition.
“We’re a group of civic and church and state-based leaders started in Watertown who have been working toward making our towns safe, family-friendly and decent places to live,” he said.
Gene Schmidt does not accept the claim that the county does not have the money – especially from the county sales tax.
“The county has an extensive budget,” said Schmidt. “I assume that one of its goals should be revitalizing and restoring the county through cultural activities, tourism and the arts. This would be, in my opinion, the best $400,000 they’ve ever spent.”
Schmidt said that similar arts facility investments have been made in other communities, and that they have been financially successful.
“Lots of county decisions are made to benefit the citizens and to make it a decent county,” Schmidt said. “I’m all for county services, but it should also support the arts – which help our youths. This building, with $800,000 in improvements, could make a fine facility for conferences, for theater, dance, drama… It could be a wonderful place to ignite all kinds of cultural activities.”
According to Schmidt, Siegel will sell the building to anyone with a vision of what it can be.
Juneau city leaders were invited by Schmidt to tour the building, but according to Schmidt only one person showed up.
“I thought if they are interested in the community the least they should do is have a look at it,” Schmidt said. “As for the Executive Committee, I don’t believe they’re all closed to the idea. Some said they don’t want to bail out the club, but someone is going to buy it – probably for another strip club. County supervisors should consider that renovating it is something that would restore dignity and honor to the county. If city and county leaders don’t take action they only have themselves to blame.”
Schmidt hopes that citizens will call their officials to urge taking action.
“We only have a short window to act,” Schmidt said.