Steps from Lake Superior is Duluth, Minnesota's historic NorShor Theater.
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Here's a chronological smörgåsbord of the local and regional feedback on things Ringsred—pro and con—that we've snipped from news sources or have received from your e-mails in the short time the site has been up (June, '06). Contact Us to send your thoughts for publication here.

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Recent News

NorShor show can go on (Duluth News-Tribune, Aug. 3, 2006) »
Feds: State, City strip club laws likely unconstitutional (Aug. 2, 2006) »
NorShor Experience sues Duluth, State over bogus strip club laws (July 12, 2006) »
Lawyer to Duluth: 'Lay off NorShor, or face malicious-prosecution lawsuit' (July 10, 2006) »

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Chronology of a Controversy: the NorShor Debate

This page: May and June, 2006
Feedback, page 2: July, 2006
Feedback, page 3: August and beyond, 2006

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May 7, 2006, Duluth News-Tribune publishes reporter Sarah Henning's scandalmongering diatribe alleging 'mismanagement' at the NorShor Theater, "Missed Chances".

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Letter to the Editor of the Duluth News-Tribune by Alan Zeppa.

Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, May 14, 2006

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Old Downtown Duluth Merchants' Letter to Dr. Eric Ringsred regarding NorShor Strip Tease Parlor
May 31, 2006

Dear Eric,

As members of the Old Downtown business community and residential neighborhood we must profess our deep disappointment with your initial decision to house a strip tease parlor within the NorShor theater. With this letter, we ask that you reconsider this plan out of respect for those of us who have invested ourselves in the idea of a vibrant and healthy Old Downtown Duluth.

We applaud your efforts on behalf of the preservation of Duluth's historic landmarks. In the past, you have stood up against the misguided and shortsighted business decisions that would have been to the detriment of Downtown. Yet your recent unilateral decision will most drastically affect the small, independent business owners struggling month to month.

Eric, through the property you own, you have power and influence over our lives. The decisions that you make have a direct and immediate personal impact on our ability to sustain our businesses and our pride in this neighborhood. We beseech you, do not use that power to impose such a negative effect on our lives.

We are invested in Old Downtown because we believe in the vision of arts, entertainment, and small businesses thriving in a safe and inclusive environment. For so many years you have been an advocate for our cause and in turn, we have supported and defended you. We ask you, to reconsider and pull the plug on this misguided idea. Are you really willing to move ahead with this plan at the expense of the very people you have so often championed and aligned with in the past?

Please, Eric, do what is right. Stop this project today. Use the power that you have and help us create and promote a positive vision that will ensure the success of Old Downtown. We would appreciate your response to our request by next Monday, June 5th.

Sincerely and with hope in our hearts,
Old Downtown Business and Community Members

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NorShor strip club plan raises hackles in Duluth
by Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
(Original: audio; MPR's online story has accompanying photos--Ed.)
June 1, 2006

Duluth's historic downtown theatre is being turned into a strip club. In the past 20 years, a string of managers have tried using the NorShor Theater for everything from local music to national acts to movies, and they've all failed. Now the owner says he's finally found something that will pay the bills. But some of his downtown neighbors, including the mayor, are really upset.

Duluth, Minn. — A few days ago, the words "Live Girls" appeared on the marquee of the NorShor Theater. Someone changed that to "Livers." And lots of people thought it was all a joke.

But Jim Gradishar is serious.

He runs an adult book store in Duluth, and he plans to open an "upscale burlesque club" in the theater later this summer.

He says the art deco building is perfect for his plans. The glass entry doors are etched with graceful swirls. He leads a quick tour past a wide staircase, which sweeps past a carved wooden mural representing the area's history.

"The entryway here is going to be like a nostalgic area somewhat, with some antiques, like the big projector," Gradishar says. "We're going to have a player piano. This place is like a museum, and I want to keep the feeling, the old feeling, the retro feeling of this building."

Gradishar says he was really taken when he first walked into the NorShor a few months ago.

"It's an amazing building, and it's a shame to see it empty. And a lot of people say it's a shame to do what I'm going to do here," Gradishar admits. "But it's a sad waste, and I think we can make money, and we can keep the doors open and pay the rent, and Eric'll be able to keep the building."

"Eric" is Eric Ringsred, an emergency room doctor who owns the NorShor and several other old buildings in downtown Duluth.

The NorShor is the crumbling crown jewel in a shabby part of downtown that local boosters have been saying is on the verge of a renaissance -- for years.

Ringsred has leased the building to various managers who have run bars, concert series, local music acts, fundraisers -- everything they could think of -- but they've all been forced to give up.

It's an amazing building, and it's a shame to see it empty. And a lot of people say it's a shame to do what I'm going to do here. But it's a sad waste, and I think we can make money.

In the meantime, Ringsred has championed historic preservation in Duluth. He's taken the city to court to keep some historic buildings from being torn down. He's lost some of those legal battles. And now he says he thinks he's finally found a business that can make money at the NorShor Theater.

"To some extent I think I'm just going with what I see as the future of area, which is not a historic district at all anymore. It's a district full of hotels, perhaps some tourists, a gambling casino and what-not," Ringsred says.

The casino, in the old Sears building, is owned by the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa. One new downtown hotel is under construction, and another could be built on the site of a building Ringsred tried to save.

But he says he's not doing this to thumb his nose at the city, and he's not upping the ante in the hope that someone will come along and buy the NorShor. Ringsred says the burlesque club will add diversity to the downtown.

"If you've been to any of the great tourist centers of Europe, like Amsterdam, Paris, or in this country, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Orleans," he says, "they all have a mix of the fringe types of entertainment and activities, along with main street stuff."

Ringsred says don't think shabby peep show, think classy, like Las Vegas.

But the neighbors ain't buying. "Classy strip joint, yeah," Dianna von Robenau scoffs. "I'm sure it's possible. I don't think Duluth is ready for it."

Von Robenau owns the Green Mercantile, an earth-friendly general store next door to the NorShor.

"We've worked so hard to build a family-oriented block around here, and bring families to our businesses -- bring in families to the therapists on the corners, and to the doctors, computer businesses -- turn things around, make things feel safe for people again," she says. "This is not going to feel safe for them."

Von Robenau says she and other neighbors are collecting signatures and sending a letter to Eric Ringsred, asking him not to let the NorShor be used as a strip joint.

Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson says he wants to sit down and discuss things with Ringsred, too.

Bergson says the city has been trying to build an arts and cultural neighborhood here, and generations of people have supported Ringsred's efforts to keep the downtown theater open.

"Like myself, and my wife, and my kids have come to the NorShor to fundraisers, and participated in them to to keep NorShor open," Bergson says. I didn't spend that money to see it turn into strip parlor."

The city has no ordinance on strip clubs. A new state law restricting such clubs would outlaw a downtown location. But a legal challenge is expected, and could even involve Ringsred and Gradishar. They're no strangers to legal battles.

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NorShor takes it off
Exotic dancing debuts at the historic theater to the annoyance of neighboring businesses.
By Peter Passi, News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Thurs., June 1, 2006

"Live Girls."

Those two words on a marquee announced the arrival of nude dancers at the NorShor Theatre last week and hinted at what could be the Duluth landmark's future.

Jim Gradishar, owner of Wabasha Book, a pornography shop in Duluth, said he plans to turn the theater into a "multi-entertainment complex," featuring a variety of attractions.

"We plan to offer a bit of everything: from comedy to kickboxing to dancing girls to blues bands," he said. "But live exotic dancers will be our bread and butter."

Gradishar plans to call his business the NorShor Experience and aims to celebrate a grand opening by July. He said the club already hosted its first private event, opening May 24 for "a test run."

With the exception of a couple of special events, the theater and bar have sat idle since August 2005, when the grand old theater was closed because of fire code violations.

The theater, built in 1910 and remodeled in the 1940s to reflect the Art Deco fashion of the day, has a rich history. It has hosted performers such as Mary Pickford, Jack Benny, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields.

The theater has struggled under its recent ownership. Eric Ringsred and Arno Kahn, who together controlled the building until recently, repeatedly leased the theater to managers who all folded in short order. While in operation, the NorShor has been home to a bar and a small movie theater in recent years. It also has been a popular music venue.

Earlier this month, the fire marshal allowed the NorShor to reopen for a concert featuring the local band Low.

Gradishar said the building should have no trouble complying with fire safety requirements and will reopen with a full bar.

Diana von Rabenau owns the Green Mercantile and hasn't come to terms with her neighbor's planned reincarnation.

If the NorShor indeed becomes a strip joint, von Rabenau predicts her business will suffer. She noted that her shop's sales dropped about $500 below its daily average last Wednesday, when the NorShor began touting its new adult-entertainment attraction. When the sign came down, von Rabenau said her sales returned to normal.

The Green Mercantile hosted an impromptu neighborhood meeting Tuesday night to discuss the situation at the NorShor and strategize a response.

Gradishar, Ringsred or Kahn were not asked to attend.

"I wish they would have invited me," Gradishar said. "I'm pretty easy to deal with. And if you ask me, this backstabbing is second-grade stuff."

Ringsred, now the NorShor's sole owner, did not return repeated calls from the News Tribune.

Kahn, who has relinquished all claims to the NorShor, reserved comment on the theater becoming a venue for exotic dancing.

"It's not my call," he said. "Obviously the programming is not the programming of my dreams. But there's a lot of ebb and flow. I look at this as just another chapter in the history of the NorShor Theatre."

For her part, von Rabenau described a feeling of betrayal.

"In general, the people in this neighborhood have supported Eric. We've always been behind what he was trying to do at the NorShor," she said. "But we're really disappointed that he has decided to go this route."

Roberta Whitehall, who runs a marketing and public relations firm on Superior Street, found the conversion of the NorShor into an adult-entertainment venue difficult to believe.

"Some people thought it was a joke," she said. "When I found it was for real, I was just shocked."

Penny Perry, owner of Perry Framing, said a strip joint runs counter to the neighborhood's efforts to make the area more inviting and family-friendly.

"It's exactly the opposite of the image we want to project," she said.

Gradishar offered assurances that his business will be clean and "classy."

"I know some people are concerned that we will ruin tourism in the area," he said. "Quite to the contrary, I think we'll increase the traffic."

The city doesn't require a license for strip clubs, said Steve LaTour, Duluth police license officer. It's not regulated either, he said.

"We have a dirty-book-store ordinance, but we don't have a dancing-with-no-clothes-on ordinance," City Attorney Bryan Brown said.

However, a state law that took effect Saturday could stand in the way of the NorShor becoming a strip club. It says that unless a city adopts more liberal guidelines, a strip club can't locate within 500 feet of a residence or 2,800 feet of a church or school.

The NorShor would violate those guidelines because of its proximity to the senior apartment building Greysolon Plaza, the Union Gospel Mission, First Presbyterian Church, Harbor City International School and Unity School in Duluth's old Central School Administration Building.

"It would be dead on every count," said Brown of the NorShor's failure to comply with the new setback requirements.

But Brown acknowledged that the constitutionality of the new state law probably will be challenged by civil libertarians.

Gradishar said he doesn't believe the new law will stand and is willing to contest it.

Meanwhile, von Rabenau said she and other like-minded champions of Duluth's Old Downtown will continue their efforts to persuade Ringsred to reconsider.

"We want him to change his mind," she said. "It's time for him to back his neighbors like we've been backing him."

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Strip club not intended in effort to preserve NorShor
'Live girls' showcase is inappropriate use of Duluth's Old Downtown landmark
Source: Unsigned editorial, Duluth News-Tribune, Thur., June 1, 2006

Duluth's historic NorShor Theatre was lauded by the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation two years ago as a gem that could spark a revitalization in Old Downtown.

He never said anything about a strip club.

Apparently, that's part of the plans for the theater and one-time vaudeville house, along with comedy, kickboxing and blues bands. "Live exotic dancers" will be "our bread and butter," Wabasha Book owner Jim Gradishar told News Tribune reporter Peter Passi. The World War II-era theater is expected to be converted into the Norshor Experience, a "multi-entertainment complex" by next month.

If it sounds unbelievable, it's already sparked opposition among neighboring businesses, to say nothing of the apparent jokesters who rearranged letters on the marquee from "LIVE GIRLS" to "LIVERS."

The main word, though, is inappropriate. Gradishar has said the new endeavor will be "classy," but it's just simply not the vision anyone could reasonably have had in mind when touting the landmark as the standard bearer of Duluth preservation. Included would be NorShor owner Eric Ringsred, who would tarnish his record as a preservationist if he allows this enterprise to go forward.

Please don't do this.

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Commentary on the above ...
From the Duluth News-Tribune's moderated forum

A disgrace!

Posted by:
6/1/2006 9:49 AM

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Yes, it's a tragedy: After all, the naked human body is to be shunned, and sex is icky! Disgraceful.

Posted by: JFJ
6/1/2006 9:54 AM

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The damage to individuals, merchants, and the community that ultimately results from the exploitation of women makes this a business venture dangerously toxic to Duluth. It is enough disgrace on this community that such a business will exist. The greater shame is that there is a market for this type of entertainment.

Posted by: Rosemary Thomas
6/1/2006 10:29 AM

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ISH!! I just wrote a letter to the editor so I won't put exactly the same thing here. It's a blight to our beautiful downtown and a disgrace to women as well. I always thought the Northland had more respect for women. If I were a visitor, I'd leave the area as soon as I saw LIVE GIRLS. Stand up, Duluthians, and don't let this happen!

Posted by: Vicki Surges
6/1/2006 10:29 AM

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Everything in its time and place, but naked dancers at the NorShor certainly doesn't fit the bill. Chalk it up to contempt for downtown Duluth on the part of Eric Ringsred, arguably the leading candidate for Duluth's worst businessman of the decade.

Posted by: Halle
6/1/2006 10:33 AM

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This is the LAST thing the city of Duluth needs! There is enough of this crap in the Duluth/Superior area anyway. Why the need for more?! To say it's disgusting and disgraceful is an understatement. So much for Ringsred's "classy," "family man" image!

Posted by: CMB
6/1/2006 10:50 AM

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What about the Saratoga being right next to a new ice cream shop in Canal Park? How come that doesn't raise eyebrows? Let the paying public decide if this is a good idea or not. If nobody goes to watch the dancers, I am sure the place will close its doors within a few months. If Donny Ness and the rest of the city councilors want it closed down, then they should change the zoning ordinaces to prohibit that type of business. Oh by the way Donny, dont we have some bigger issues to worry about in the city? Namely bankruptcy? Let's focus on the hard issues, not just the ones that get our name in print.

Posted by: Phil
6/1/2006 10:56 AM

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The new or impending venture slated for the Norshor Theatre is inappropriate, totally out of sync and goes against historic preservation and revitalization in the old downtown area. This historic and highly visible area is home to the beautiful Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, the Hillside Community Church, several schools and a few residential apartment communities. We must not let this area of the community continue to be infiltrated with more "seedy" and "questionable" businesses such as the anticipated strip club. The Duluth city council, the mayor's office and planning department officials must emphatically say NO to this type of business, especially due to the location. Enough is enough.

Posted by: Henry L. Banks
6/1/2006 11:11 AM

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There are many successful city-owned theaters, including the State theater in Minneapolis. Why doesn't the city of Duluth consider buying the NorShor and using it to re-establish arts and entertainment there? It would be an expensive investment to purchase and repair, but it would have a tremendous effect on the Duluth downtown community.

Posted by: Meghan Engstrom
6/1/2006 11:28 AM

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If you don't like it, don't go. I'm glad to see something going on in there. I do believe the NorShor had burlesque shows way back the day, so it's only fitting. The Saratoga has been in Canal Park for a long time and Canal Park is thriving today. I'd much rather they still have punk rock shows at the "Shor", but so what. It's not my place to tell Dr. Ringsred what he should or should not have in his property. If it pays his bills and keeps the NorShor from being condemed and torn down, then so be it.

Posted by: Jeremiah Brown
6/1/2006 11:53 AM

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I wonder if he ever considers what his children think of this or how they will be affected?

Posted by: Ann L.
6/1/2006 12:03 PM

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I don't think Ringsred's ever had a business open long enough for his children or anyone else to take much notice. Having his name attached to it is taking the express lane to nowhere. I assume the Kozy Bar will close shortly since Ringsred now owns that, too. Maybe he can move the strip club in there.

Posted by:
6/1/2006 12:12 PM

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Please, City Officials, don't let the grand old North Shore building turned into another Wabasha pornography building. These owners dare to compare the Saratoga to the kind of business they want at the North Shore. The Saratoga is a low key place with no pornography going on like there is at the Wabasha. This place will be very bad advertising for the new skywalk being planned for that part of the city. People walking on the skywalk from the hospitals will see the kind of traffic that will go in and out of this disgusting place. I hope our City planners will want a more respectable business connected to the the planned skywalk.

Posted by: peggy juran
6/1/2006 12:31 PM

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Like any other Ringsredian Adventure this will blow up in his face. Relax. Business will peak and then it will crash. There's very little free parking available in that area, and it's already a congested area thanks to Fond-du-Luth and the Tech Village.

But in this instance at least SOMETHING is happening there that will help generate revenue for the city. The city can't just "buy the building" and support the arts because thanks to city unions, the city has no money! We're paying so much retiree health care and giving loans to families of people who fight the cops there's no money left.

Summary: Don't like it, don't go. If you get offended by a sign that says "Live Girls" you need to re-evaluate what offends you. It will fail. Give it time. If you think that a nudie bar is so corrupting, walk on First Street from 3rd East to 2nd West. That's sin and debauchery. From the UGM to Lifehouse is nothing but drugs, prostitutes, welfare cases and more.

Posted by:
6/1/2006 12:48 PM

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I think Ringsred is doing a great disservice to the city of Duluth and its inhabitants. What sort of doctor would allow a strip club to operate in his best property that lies in the middle of downtown?

Posted by: Bob S
6/1/2006 12:50 PM

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It seems to me the City Council tries once again to stomp on this city engaging in any interesting or profitable businesses. While thousands of young adults continue to die in Iraq, our liberal views think it is front page news that our beloved career politician Donny Ness would rather be called Don. Speaking for the young generation, Who really cares???

Posted by: LDM
6/1/2006 12:51 PM

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The Northland Reader had this story a week ago. What took so long?

Posted by: Who Cares
6/1/2006 1:05 PM

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Don't you know sarcasm when you hear it, Charlie Brown?

Posted by: French
6/1/2006 1:05 PM

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Whatever is at the Norshor I am sure will be shut down soon anyway as Mr. Ringsred's way of preserving Duluth's historic buildings is letting them deteriorate to the point where they need to be torn down and then fight to save them and continue to waste our tax dollars. By the looks of his property he is trying to preserve old busses, motor homes and whatever other piece of junk he has aquired over the years. Get him out of here.

Posted by: LNA
6/1/2006 1:17 PM

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I'm going!!!

Posted by: B
6/1/2006 1:19 PM

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this is wrong.
Why did the City let this open.
What about ALL the children that visit the NorthShore every year.
If I lived closer I would be at City Hall and asking them what were you thinking?

Posted by: Robin (Shakopee, MN)
6/1/2006 2:35 PM

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there is a reason they moved wabasha book store in the first place!!! why would they allow for this man to turn some of duluth's little history into a business full of inoccent nudes.

Posted by: chad
6/1/2006 2:48 PM

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i moved down to the cities and there is enough of that nude crap down here i dont see why they would let something like this sit in the middle of duluth beauty.

Posted by: chad
6/1/2006 2:50 PM

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PAVSA's children's visitation center across the street from Live Nudie Girls?

Posted by: A. Guggemos
6/1/2006 3:09 PM

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Appropriate for a City on the verge of bankruptcy anyways. At least it should be able to keep up with the fire code and taxes. The city can't seem to manage its current budget (according to current news reports) let alone micro-manage small business.

Posted by:
6/1/2006 3:26 PM

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I think the city of Duluth should be ashamed of themselves for not taking a firm stand against this type of activity. I personally try to avoid downtown Duluth because of some of the characters down there. All I hear about on the news is how the jobs are getting more and more scarce up here, yet if businesses choose to leave because of the Wabasha's "expansion", then the city has noone to blame but themselves. City of Duluth, listen up. Your businesses around the area are what makes you run. LISTEN TO THEM. If this goes through, I am going to make it a point of not going anywhere near downtown.

Posted by: Ryan M.
6/1/2006 3:28 PM

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Let it be. There are strip clubs all over the U.S.A. What is one more going to hurt anything? I will for sure be a customer to the club. Bring on something new for a change.

Posted by: Party Girl
6/1/2006 3:37 PM

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Simple economics - supply and demand.

Posted by: Brandon
6/1/2006 3:38 PM

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It just never ceases to amaze me that people can get so up in arms about a supposed bad business! The people that are so concerned about women dancing nude, should take some time and educate themselves on the economic factors that drive these women to dance nude. As a society we are only upset when the homeless person sleeps near our homes. We do not seem to concern ourelves with solving the problem. Can we please address our local leaders to secure more money for social causes.

Posted by: laurie
6/1/2006 4:40 PM

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I hope this business caters to northland desires and has the steel to hire good looking caucasian women, something which is a minority in the Twin Ports.

Posted by: Herbie:FullyLoaded
6/1/2006 5:49 PM

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Not my first choice to go into the Norshore but I think that it is great the owner is still trying to save the building.

Posted by:
6/1/2006 6:50 PM

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Common sense just dictates that this type of 'business', should be located elsewhere, not in the middle of downtown Duluth, right next door to Greysolon Plaza, home to senior citizens, in close proximity to the lake walk.. Shame on Ringsred, Guess I will never go to St. Lukes he is an emergency room doc. How alarming is that.

Posted by: A Voter!!
6/1/2006 7:14 PM

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A few weeks ago the paper trashed Dr.Eric Ringsred in a multi page article claiming he hadn't done enough to save the NorShor. He is now rubbing our noses in that article. Eric is a lot smarter than you all realize.

Posted by: George
6/1/2006 7:33 PM

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what do you expect no economy equals trash

Posted by: shebogity
6/1/2006 11:41 PM

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This move is extremely detrimental to Old Downtown and all of Duluth. While I commend Eric's desire to preserve historic building, we can not do so at the expense of the social and economic fabric of our neighborhood and city. We should also oppose business that objectify or otherwise oppress women. No amount of money is worth the cost to our city and I truly hope this move can be stopped.

Posted by: Bret Thiele
6/2/2006 12:09 AM

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I work in the neighborhood where Norshore is located and I must say we already have quite a colorful crowd of drunken people running a muck in that area, do we really need to add perverts to it? I mean some of us women working in the area are harassed on a daily basis by random locals, and I think adding a strip club will just further our harassment. Please, let's just pass on the strip club. It's skanky and gross, and I really don't feel like running down Superior Street away from some ishy guy who just left "da club".

Posted by: May
6/2/2006 2:01 AM

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Eric has tried to get this property to perform for a long time now. If he pays his taxes and conforms to the ordinances of the city,I say good luck. Let the market will decide if it should be there.

Posted by: Dr. P
6/2/2006 9:29 AM

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Ha, I cannot beleive how tolerant the media is of the "powerful" people in this town but when it comes to a common person making a change they use whatever slander or misinformation they can to make them out to be the bad person. Maybe some of you should look at the real threats to downtown? You complain about the location they chose, Yet half way down the block we have the Red Lion on one side and on the other side we have our very own "Head Shop" right in the heart of old downtown ! Since the community cannot respect itself how do you expect it to be respected!!!

Posted by: Someone who actually cares
6/5/2006 1:52 PM

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The community has NOT supported Eric in any of the endeavors that he has continued to take on as a matter of a fact they have slandered and tried to drive him away. You people say You have supported him. I would like to know when where and how cause I have seen nothing but slander and misinformation!

Posted by: True Duluthian
6/5/2006 1:56 PM

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I'm not sure what all the hub-bub is about. The Toga haas been a fixture in the city for as long as I can remember. The fact that there was a strip club right across the street did not seem to stop the building of two brand new hotels. I am sure that if they thought that the Toga was hurting their bussiness something would be done in a heart beat. Get real people, it just would add more charecter to an area if diverse interestes.

Posted by:
6/5/2006 2:48 PM

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If you want to hear Eric's side of the story go to http://www.ericringsred.com

Posted by:
6/5/2006 3:51 PM

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Americans are so squeemish about their sexuality it's pretty sad. In most of the rest of the world legitimate adult entertainment businesses are able to coexist in other heavily touristed areas. I for one am looking forward to another good place. Hopefully it will be of the same quality as the Toga! Enough of the gentrification already.

Posted by: worldly one
6/6/2006 2:59 PM

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Editorial: 'Preserve' means to maintain in perfect condition
Source: Unsigned editorial, The Superior Daily Telegram, Friday, June 2, 2006

In his effort to "preserve" the NorShor Theater building, owner Eric Ringsred has found the perfect solution: Turn the majestic old structure into a strip club.

Fortunately, the Duluth physician doesn't own Superior's old Palace Theater. Or an old church building, for his vision of "preserving” historic structures certainly falls short of meeting community standards.

Putting a strip club in the NorShor shows a reckless disregard for what Ringsred purports to promote: preserving the timeless beauty that is present in many Twin Ports structures. It's akin to buying a former church and using it for Wiccan rituals. Whatever is he thinking?

Very likely, he believes that such a shocking act might prompt the city of Duluth, other grantors or those in the larger community to come forth with a fistful of dollars to thoroughly beautify the NorShor—something Ringsred has never adequately done. Although he fashions himself as a preservationist, a man who stands up for all that is good and right in the world of historic structures, the fruits of his labor have left few breathless. Ringsred certainly is no Rob Link, the Technology Village developer he fought in court in a misplaced effort to preserve a block of festering dirty bookstores along Duluth's downtown gateway.

Buying decrepit old buildings and renting them to pornographers is hardly the stuff that puts one's face on a portrait in the local Hall of Fame. Truth be told, such vile acts tend to expose one's true colors.

Hopefully, Duluth officials, NorShor neighbors and all Twin Ports residents will take a united stand against this development. That should include Superiorites, as Ringsred also has owned property here and could well let his bad judgment make its mark on this community. From what he has demonstrated this week in Duluth, Superior hardly needs such help.

If any good can come from of this, it's that Ringsred has allowed the truth to emerge about his intentions and performance. Actions speak louder than words. And the action taken with the NorShor exposes what many have seen but most have chosen to ignore. Investment in the structure has been insufficient to sustain much more than a cheap skin show. This fabulous building deserves much better treatment, and an owner who truly cares.

***

Eric,

I realize the new venture at the NorShor will be met with a lot of skepticism. I hope you know that there are many of us Duluth residents, however often silent, that will support your decision to open the NorShor to live dancers. While probably unpopular to many Duluthians, I think it is beneficial as long as it will help bring attention to that beautiful theater and eventually help with financial support to bring it back to its original state. Thanks for being progressive, thoughtful and willing to take a chance on a very controversial issue in order to make sure the theater avoids the wrecking ball.

In full support of the NorShor!!!

Jim Gaylord
Duluth, MN

***

Eric,

A thought after reading your homepage: Canal Park has grown and blossomed around the Club Saratoga.

Hang in there.

Tim Lee

***

Dr. Ringsred,
For God's sake, please sell this thing and stop embarrassing the city.

What a horrible waste. Look at the Varsity in Dinkytown; was a rundown hole. Jason from the Loring bought it, actually SPENT HIS OWN MONEY TO FIX IT UP, now it's a huge success and benefiting the arts and culture. It seems you just don't have any business acumen. So, please!

Oh, yeah. Why the quotes around "neighborhood"?

Tim Danielson

***

Porn shop threatened, shut down in unrelated actions
By Mark Stodghill, News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, June 2, 2006

Police worked for and against Wabasha Book in downtown Duluth today as they investigated a bomb threat affixed with a knife to the door of the pornography shop and, in an unrelated action, told the business owner he was being shut down.

Sgt. Scott Campbell, supervisor of the Violent Crimes Unit, said the Wabasha notified police at 8:17 a.m. that a threatening note directed toward Eric Ringsred was found on the front of the store at 114 E. First St.

Ringsred is owner of the NorShor Theatre and has approved a plan for Jim Gradishar, owner of Wabasha Book, to bring nude dancers into the theater.

The words of the note were pieced together with letters taken from a newspaper or magazine, Campbell said. It was stuck to the door with a kitchen knife.

He said the crime scene unit was processing the note for fingerprints and other evidence and it wasn't available for public inspection today.

A vandal also spray-painted a red "X" over the Wabasha door.

Gradishar didn't see the threatening note, but a police officer told him what it said. "It said something like, 'If you open the NorShor strip club we will blow you up' or something like that," he said.

"If they think my business is wrong, then why do another wrong? Two wrongs don't make a right," Gradishar said of the threat. "They're obviously upset with my business. I can't understand how terrorism can do anything good for anybody. Some humans think like jackasses. Violence is not the answer, that's for sure."

Gradishar received another dose of bad news today when Duluth police licensing officer Steve Latour told him his adult bookstore was being closed.

Latour determined that Gradishar's business is in violation of a Duluth city ordinance that doesn't allow an adult bookstore within 600 feet of churches, parks, pedestrian plazas or schools.

Latour measured the distance and found that the front door of the bookstore is 65.9 feet -- about the distance of a baseball pitching mound from home plate -- from the front door of the nondenominational On Eagle's Wing Church.

The Clayton-Jackson-McGhie Memorial meets the generally accepted definition of a pedestrian plaza and is 170.5 feet from the Wabasha.

A youth center and Hillside Community Church are located at 201 E. First St., about 319 feet from the adult book store.

Duluth City Attorney Bryan Brown said the denial of the adult bookstore's permit application was coincidental to Gradishar recently bringing nude dancers into the NorShor Theatre as part of his plan to turn the theater into a multi-entertainment complex.

The permit was granted through May 31 and the city denied renewal on June 1, Brown said.

He said he informed Gradishar several months ago that the city had problems with the adult bookstore because of the distance ordinance that went into effect in September.

"His comment was that he'd change the nature of his bookstore and start selling other publications," Brown said of Gradishar.

Under the city ordinance, an adult bookstore is defined as having 40 percent or more of its gross sales in books, pamphlets, magazines or other pictorial or printed material which are distinguished or characterized by a principal emphasis on nudity, sado-masochistic abuse, sexual conduct or sexual excitement; and/or has 30 percent or more of books, pamphlets, magazines or other pictorial or printed material displayed for sale on the premises distinguished or characterized by a principal emphasis on nudity, sado-masochistic abuse, sexual conduct or sexual excitement.

Gradishar said today he planned to talk to his magazine distributor and he would provide everything from "Sports Afield to Hot Rod to Women's World" at his store.

The businessman was heading to Minneapolis to meet with his attorney.

"I'm not worried whatsoever about either business," Gradishar said. "I believe they both will be open shortly."

***

Duluth News-Tribune unsigned editorial, June 6, 2006: Saratoga Club gets snagged in Ringsred's x-rated mess.

Source: Unsigned editorial, Duluth News-Tribune, Thur., June 6, 2006

***

No preservationist
Source: Budgeteer News, Columnist Ralph Doty, June 9, 2006

Eric Ringsred owns a lot of downtown property, making him a very visible public figure. His supporters never miss an opportunity to tell us he deserves praise because he's preserving old downtown buildings. Included in Ringsred's properties are: The NorShor Theatre; the building housing the Wabasha adult book store; and ownership of the liquor license for the often controversial Cozy Bar.

Ringsred is in the news again because he recently turned over operation of the NorShor to Jim Gradishar, who wants to convert it into a "strip-tease parlor"—to use the words of Penny Perry, owner of nearby Perry Framing, one of many small businesses struggling to survive in a downtown in need of revitalization.

There are many words to describe Ringsred, but "preservationist" is not one of them.

***

... (People) don't like strip clubs. Women get naked in them. Seedy people want to see the naked women. Seedy people drink and watch the naked women, and their testosterone gets all whipped up into a frenzy, and then drunken and disorderly behavior occurs out on the sidewalks, scaring the little old ladies who are leaving the Fond Du Luth casino after spending their monthly pension checks on bingo.

Source: Kelli, June 14, 2006. Full text at waterlog

***

Proposal would save Saratoga
A new city ordinance would save Duluth's oldest strip club but would not allow the NorShor to become one.
By Chris Hamilton, News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, June 22, 2006

City Councilor Russ Stewart will try to save Duluth's only strip joint, the Club Saratoga, from a new state law.

Stewart, whose 3rd District includes the 62-year-old Canal Park nightclub, will present an ordinance to the City Council on Monday that extends the city's existing standards for adult bookstores to adult entertainment such as strip clubs.

"I just think what the state did is they solved a problem that didn't exist," Stewart said. "And in doing so, they forced us to regulate something that had not been regulated."

City Attorney Bryan Brown, who wrote the ordinance for Stewart, said he believes the adult bookstore language will allow the Club Saratoga to operate as it does now.

Stewart's ordinance change will offer no help for controversial plans to put a strip club in the historic NorShor Theatre on Superior Street, because the NorShor is within 400 feet of a pedestrian plaza.

"I want it to be made clear that I do not want to be known as the champion of pornography," Stewart said. "They (Club Saratoga) are a business in our community, and they deserve as much attention as any other business. It's just something that needs to be dealt with, and I felt something needed to be done."

Councilors can vote on the matter as soon as their July 10 meeting. An informal poll of councilors by the News Tribune found support from six of nine councilors, more than enough for it to pass.

Stewart's ordinance sets the same hours of operation for adult entertainment that bars have. By comparison, the new state law says nude dancing can take place only from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

That law was passed with little notice in the closing days of the legislative session last month. However, it appears to have serious implications for nearly every strip club in the state, because the law does not provide for grandfathering them in.

The law, however, allows cities to create ordinances to supersede state law.

State law says strip clubs cannot be within 500 feet of the property line of any residence or within 2,800 feet -- more than half a mile -- of churches and schools. An apartment next door put the Saratoga in violation.

The current city adult bookstore ordinance, which was written in 1959 and updated last fall, provides more leeway than the state's adult live entertainment law. But it still prohibits adult bookstores from being within 600 feet of churches, parks or schools or within 400 feet of a pedestrian plaza.

Stewart said the Police Department's licensing officer would need to take an official measurement to make sure the Saratoga complies. He said one dicey issue is whether the club is within 400 feet of the Lakewalk or fountain at the corner of Canal Park Drive and Buchanan Street.

Stewart's ordinance just adds "adult entertainment establishments" to the bookstore language. The less-restrictive standards, when compared to the state law, say that an adult entertainment establishment can't be within 600 feet of a residential zone.

"Zone" is the operative word, Stewart said.

"Since there is no residential zoning in Canal Park, we figured it (Club Saratoga) would comply," Stewart said.

At Large City Councilor Don Ness said combining adult bookstores and strip clubs in the same ordinance makes it more pragmatic for enforcement officers and more defensible for city lawyers.

The club's owners have not responded to requests for News Tribune interviews. Stewart said he spoke with a Twin Cities partner in the club who was fine with the new language.

"The Saratoga was there before anything else was there," said 5th District Councilor Russ Stover. "It would be wrong to see them go out of business."

At Large Councilor Tim Little said he would most likely endorse the ordinance as well, because he's never heard of any problems at the club.

Last month, NorShor Theatre owner Dr. Eric Ringsred and Jim Gradishar announced plans to turn the aging theater into a strip club.

"I know the Lakeplace Park is right across the street from the NorShor, so I doubt that they would comply," Stewart said.

A leading First Amendment attorney for Minnesota club owners already said he will challenge the state law. Gradishar has said he set aside plans to open this summer until he sees how the legal challenges shake out.

Brown also said he still plans to ask the Attorney General's Office to weigh in on the constitutionality of the state law. If Mike Hatch says it's OK, Brown said the city would move ahead with earlier plans to shut down the Saratoga.

Of course, Hatch's opinion would be moot if Stewart's ordinance passes.

Second District Councilor Greg Gilbert said he hadn't read Stewart's ordinance yet, so had no opinion.

"I hope it's well thought-out," Gilbert said. "Otherwise this can turn into a real mess. There are a lot of landmines out there on this one."

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