Steps from Lake Superior is Duluth, Minnesota's historic NorShor Theater.
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Chronology of a Controversy: the NorShor Debate, continued ...

Feedback, page 1: May and June, 2006
Feedback, page 2: July, 2006
This page: August and beyond, 2006

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Feds: State, City strip club laws likely unconstitutional (Aug. 2, 2006) »

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NorShor offer is genuine, and so is public bargaining
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Tues, Aug. 2, 2006

I've been justifiably criticized for many things, but until my wife and I were slammed by the writer of the July 19 letter, 'Offer for NorShor must be comedy act,' did I ever in my wildest nightmares believe we'd be denounced for publicly stating our intention to give away $750,000 to benefit the citizens of Duluth. In fact, while the writer "doubts that anything in terms of the offer is genuine," let me reassert that it is what it is: $250,000 up front to fund a nonprofit group dedicated to a new vision of a revitalized Norshor Theater free of the whims of private control, with $500,000 more over a 10-year period to support ongoing development and programming.

I'm sorry the writer didn't appreciate the method of our "Modest Proposal," but I'm sure that even he is aware of the old expression "kick me once, shame on you -- kick me twice, shame on me." Having once been mocked on the pages of the News Tribune by current NorShor owner Eric Ringsred after private negotiations with him about the NorShor ("Missed Chances," May 7), I have no desire to conduct any further negotiations with him in anything other than a public forum.

Of course all this may be moot, since Ringsred continues to rebuff any overtures about relinquishing control of the theater (see ericringsred.com). Somewhat shockingly he does so by using the old shibboleth of privilege, that the NorShor Theater "is the property of the Ringsred Family." Of course this is absolutely true, but to a shameless old liberal like myself it just doesn't sound right coming from an avowed preservationist like Eric Ringsred.

Despite Ringsred's rejection and his current unabashed drive to develop a strip club in the NorShor, the offer will stand for the foreseeable future. Hopefully it will outlive this latest whim of Ringsred's and become a rallying point for public efforts to develop the Old Downtown into something all Duluthians will be proud of for decades to come.

Alan Zeppa
Duluth

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Judge: NorShor show can go on
Downtown Duluth: A federal judge issues a preliminary injunction allowing nude dancing at the historic theater, saying city and state statutes prohibiting it may be problematic.
By Will Ashenmacher, News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Thur., Aug. 3, 2006

Organizers received a temporary green light Wednesday to have nude dancers at downtown Duluth's NorShor Theatre.

By issuing a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order against the city, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis pre-emptively froze its ability to enforce an ordinance that would have fouled plans by Jim Gradishar, the president of NorthShor Experience Inc., to feature nude entertainment at the NorShor.

The ordinance is due to go into effect Aug. 21.

Davis also forbade the city from enforcing a state statute that's more strict as to how, where and when adult entertainment venues can operate because he saw Gradishar's claim that it's unconstitutional as having some legitimacy.

"I felt relieved and happy as hell," said Gradishar, who learned of the decision midmorning Wednesday.

The crux of Davis' ruling is that the Duluth ordinance is essentially a zoning ordinance, but wasn't treated as such. Therefore, it didn't go through the proper channels and is legally unenforceable.

Duluth cannot enforce its ordinance or the state statute with regards to the NorthShor Experience until Davis reaches his final decision on Gradishar's suit against the city.

The state statute prevented adult establishments from being within 500 feet of a residence, 1,500 feet of another adult establishment or 2,800 feet of a school or place of worship. Also, adult establishments could operate only between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Duluth's ordinance specified that adult establishments had to be at least 400 feet away from pedestrian plazas and 600 feet away from churches, parks, schools and residential zones.

City Attorney Bryan Brown, who wrote the ordinance, expressed mild surprise at the ruling.

"It's kind of a novel deal," he said.

That Davis held the ordinance was a zoning regulation was of interest to Brown.

"None of us thought this was a zoning ordinance," he said. "We never tried to disguise anything."

The ruling also casts an interesting light on the state statute, which had thus far prevented Gradishar from bringing dancers to the NorShor.

Randall Tigue, Gradishar's attorney, said Davis' ruling serves as an ill omen for the statute's chances of legitimacy.

"This absolutely horrible ruling by the state has been drowned in the bathtub before it can rear its ugly head," Tigue said. "I think there will be very little interest statewide in enforcing this."

Brown said Duluth's ordinance was a reaction to the statute and was enacted to give local nude entertainment venues a little more breathing room.

"It's not like the city suddenly decided to regulate strip shows," he said. "The city tried to be more tolerant of them, actually."

The ordinance effectively saved the Club Saratoga, a Canal Park jazz club that offers nude dancers some nights, but didn't rescue the NorthShor Experience.

The state statute has an unusual provision that allows local ordinances to supersede it.

Davis' ruling leaves Duluth without a viable ordinance pertaining directly to nude entertainment, Brown said.

"There is no city ordinance involved in regulating strip club places," Brown said. "The city didn't have any old ones because it never regulated strip joints before."

The NorShor Theatre was open for bar business Wednesday night, and Gradishar said he could have live entertainment by as early as Friday. He also said he plans a grand opening celebration next weekend, during Bayfront Blues Festival, with live dancers and music.

Gradishar plans to have live nude entertainment six nights a week, Sundays excepted.

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

Amen! I will be first one there on Friday with my dollars. Bring on the girls!

Posted by: Can't Wait for the Strippers
8/3/2006 9:33 AM

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As a kids I have great memories of the North Shore. I can not believe that the people in Duluth are going to let this go through. What a shame to a great building!!!

Posted by: Brian Ensign
8/3/2006 10:30 AM

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They should put slot machines in too.

Posted by: John
8/3/2006 10:59 AM

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Last I heard this is a privately owned establishment, Brian. It has nothing to do with the city or her citizens.

Posted by:
8/3/2006 11:13 AM

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I congratulate Duluth on supporting our city businesses! We need every dollar to help out our retiree deficit!

Posted by: C.S.S. (Club Saratoga Supporter)
8/3/2006 11:27 AM

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I'm surprised that the DNT editorial writers aren't bashing Judge Davis this morning for his ruling on the nude dancing ordinance. The nerve of that guy, using federal power to force obscene entertainment on the fine citizens of Duluth! Crucify him!!

Oh, yeah.... I forgot. The DNT isn't against nude dancing at the "well-liked" and long-lived Club Saratoga. They're just against nude dancing at the NorShor. Or maybe they're just against nude dancing at any building (historic landmark or not) owned by the notorious Dr. Ringsred.

Would they change their tune if there was nude dancing at the NorShor presented by a nonprofit performing arts group with an endowment from a local charitable foundation? I think they would.

I wonder what the DNT would have thought about nude dancing at the grand old Lyceum Theater. Some of you might recall that the demolition of that nationally recognized historic gem (which made the NorShor pale in comparison) was supported by DNT's editorial writers.

So when did the DNT get religion, so to speak, about historic preservation?

You can read about DNT's support for the destruction of a number of historic buildings in Duluth at EricRingsred.com

Posted by:
8/3/2006 11:44 AM

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If you dont like it dont go in!

This city is so full of whiners and crybaby's, you can have a gay pride festival in bayfront park, but its not allowed to have a exotic dancers??

what a joke.!

congratulations NORSHORE!

Posted by:
8/3/2006 12:03 PM

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This is no different than any other business. If you don't like what it stands for, don't support it. I don't go to strip joints but if someone else wants to they should be able to make that choice.

Posted by: Eric
8/3/2006 12:32 PM

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OH MY GOD!! A strip club at the Norshor can only detract from the ambience so ably generated by the head shops, adult book stores, the casino, the drug dealers, whores, homeless and chronic drunks in the neighborhood. What will we do? What WILL we do?

Posted by:
8/3/2006 8:49 AM

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Support Duluth's local artist talent by spending your dollars in the proper place.

Posted by: Glad to see another strip joint!
8/3/2006 3:26 PM

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at least my dollar bills will good for something

Posted by: jack
8/3/2006 4:36 PM

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how about a norshor sauna upstairs???

Posted by:
8/3/2006 5:38 PM

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I found it VERY strange that the city crafted a proposal to save the Saratoga - but wanted to eliminate all other strip joints. You just can't do that! If you don't want to support it, don't. Otherwise, they have a right to exist. It's funny that everyone wanted the 'toga to stay where it is. When we come to town - we've had children ask 'what's in there?". It's right in the middle of a family place - at least the other strip bars are generally in desheviled areas of town. I say hooray for the judge's ruling. At first I was bummed that it would be in the Norshor, but if it can help it to be renovated to it's grandeur someday - cool - not like a lot of other familys are visiting that section of downtown, right?

Posted by: Erickson
8/3/2006 11:11 PM

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there has been many good things that have happened in the past at the Norshore including fine art shows and having a stage for local artists, and now it is degraded to sleaze? no thanks I have heard enough to NOT see anymore at the Norshore.

Posted by: local artist
8/3/2006 11:23 PM

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Saweet.

Posted by:
8/3/2006 11:55 PM

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Mint

Posted by:
8/4/2006 3:39 AM

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City Officials need to get done what needs to be done to prevent this establishment from operating.

Posted by: Jerry Hackett
8/4/2006 9:05 AM

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For all the gays and liberals in this town, this should have been a push.

Posted by:
8/4/2006 9:26 AM

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At least the current owners are doing something both to bring money into the city and make some use of this old building. I'm not sure who in their right mind would WANT to go downtown at night, but that's another issue. I don't get the argument that you saw a movie at the Norshor for a nickel when you were a kid 50 years ago and therefore it should always be a theater. Put your money where your mouth is and buy the place and do whatever you want with it. Or shut up. Your choice.

Posted by:
8/4/2006 9:56 AM

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His Bare Thoughts
By Chris Hamilton, News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Sat., Aug. 5, 2006

NorShor Experience owner Jim Gradishar. Jim Gradishar talks fast.

The wiry manager of the new strip club in Duluth's historic NorShor Theatre moves fast, too. Probably too fast for a lot of people in City Hall and the community.

In an interview Friday just hours before his controversial club, NorthShor Experience, held its grand opening, Gradishar was a combination of quick wit, dirty language, giddiness, exasperation and exhaustion.

Gradishar, 43, said he's put in 18-hour days for months, spent $90,000 and mortgaged his home on what he promises in his best DJ voice will be the "hottest club in the Upper Midwest." It also will be totally nude with a full bar.

The technical school grad from Aurora has transformed the NorShor with paint, neon and stages that fit in surprisingly well with the theater's neoclassical motif, notwithstanding the statues of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.

All the work was done in lobbies, the bar and the mezzanine. The giant main room remains empty as does the old balcony, which was converted to a smaller theater. But Gradishar also plans to host bands, boxing matches and other special events in the theater's other spaces.

At the same time, he's been fighting City Hall's recent efforts to essentially regulate the strip club and his other venture, Wabasha Adult Bookstore, out of existence. So far, Gradishar is winning both battles, including getting an injunction this week from a federal judge that temporarily sets aside a new city ordinance and state law restricting live adult entertainment.

Gradishar got his start in the adult entertainment industry by hooking up video and electrical equipment for legendary Minnesota pornography kingpin Ferris Alexander. About 16 years ago, he took over Alexander's Wabasha Adult Book Store. That was after the FBI took Alexander down on racketeering charges.

Gradishar's NorthShor Experience business partners include Dr. Eric Ringsred, who owns the building and liquor license, and Gradishar's fiancee, Tina Jackson.

After stepping off a ladder inside the NorShor to talk for an hour with the News Tribune, Gradishar was sweating through his Harley Davidson T-shirt as he consulted with three contractors, took phone calls, smoked several Winstons and sipped a beer.

Q: What drew you to this line of work?

A: The paycheck. I had to pay the... rent. It was my first job out of tech school. I'm stuck with it now. I'm untrainable. I'm too old and I've got no gumption to go back to school. And I'm extremely lazy.

Q: Doesn't sound like it.

A: No. I've been jamming lately.

Q: What do you tell people that you do for a living when you meet them at parties?

A: I tell them I'm in the erotica business.

Q: What do they usually say after that?

A: Do you want a date? No. People think of that stereotype of our industry, that we are still old men wearing trench coats. But it's exactly the opposite; it is run by young business people. And it's more high-tech than people think.

Q: What does Mom think about this?

A: Not a thing. They (his parents) are super-open-minded. They do get nudged a bit by others, but it rolls off their backs. I've been physically threatened twice by people on the street since I announced this.

Q: What's your take on the way the city handled the Club Saratoga (Duluth's other strip club, which city leaders defended because it is an existing business and allowed to stay open by revising an existing ordinance)?

A: The 'toga is a landmark. I can't see how they can take down an existing business like that. But I was an existing business. Sixty-two years or 62 minutes, and you are still an existing business. We were open on May 24 (several days before the state law passed), which makes me a legal nonconforming use. You can look that one up.

Q: How do you feel you've been treated by the city?

A: I don't want to fight with the city. This is my career, so I have to. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was right. And my lawyer (First Amendment attorney Randall Tigue) wouldn't take it if he didn't think we could win.

Q: Why do you believe it is right?

A: In my opinion it's OK, and I believe that. Some people don't see my opinion. If it's not your thing, just don't open the door.

Q: How would you describe yourself?

A: About 5 foot 8 inches, 135 pounds. What do you mean?

Q: What kind of man are you?

A: I'm a good-time Charlie. Not here for a long time, here for a good time. Too many people wished they'd had more fun in life and by the time they realized it, it's too late.

Q: Where do your acts or performers come from?

A: We've been open the past two nights (Wednesday and Thursday). We had some auditions and wow, we had some knockouts in here. They were Cadillacs. We have some locals, some Minneapolis girls are coming tonight (Friday), eventually nationwide.

Q: Are you living a dream? Do you basically just love women?

A: No. I am the entertainment manager of this place. My fiancee has been in the gentleman's club business for about 15 years (as a waitress and bartender). I have the opportunity, and she's got the smarts. ... I couldn't pass it up.

Q: Was it a rush to get that injunction from the judge?

A: I expected it would go in our favor. But I did a little dancing.

Q: Nude dancing?

A: No, this ain't a comedy club.

Q: What was Ferris Alexander like?

A: He was ... brilliant. He was that trench coat, old-guy stereotype. But he was also a good-hearted guy, a nice guy. But when it was time to do business to be a ... (jerk), he was a ... (jerk). I liked him.

Q: So this is just a line of work you got into, and it stuck?

A: When I was in school, did I ever dream I would be in the adult entertainment business? No. But it's a good living. I work hard. I made a decent amount of money, and until this happened, I could have some time off when I needed it. I just gotta make hay now while the sun is shinin'. You never know what you're going to end up doing. And this place is ... nice. We put a lot of work into it.

Q: How do you deal with the criticism of this place, about turning this historic theater into a strip joint?

A: They have their right to express their concerns. And it's my right to do what I think is right. And what I think is right and legal is what I am doing. The First Amendment says they can say whatever the hell they want to, to a certain degree.

Q: Do you anticipate any problems with your neighbors?

A: I've heard rumors that there might be trouble. But I really wish that they would just come to me and see if we can work out some kind of compromise, whatever the problem might be. They had concerns. They had a sit-down. And I wasn't invited. Don't you think I should have been invited?

Q: Do you have an overall vision for this part of town?

A: No. But this town overall is a convention and tourist town. And tourist and convention towns need a fun club like this. It's gonna be a fun place. Even if people don't believe it, it will be a tourist destination.

Q: How do you respond to critics who say this line of work objectifies women and leads to drugs and more crime to neighborhoods?

A: It's a proven fact that bars like this have less problems with crime than other bars. A bar with entertainment has less crime than a bar without, where people only come in to drink. This is 'come on in and have a drink and have a good time.'

Q: What are you focused on today?

A: I'm trying to get the girls in here to put on an upscale burlesque club. That's my No. 1 priority. The girls pay the rent.

Q: Are you worried that you've taken on maybe more than you can handle?

A: I'm Superman. I figure I'm up to my chin so I might as well go all the way in.

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On opening night, a topless dancer and tame clientele
By Will Ashenmacher, News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Sat., Aug. 5, 2006

After winning the first battle in a legal tussle over his right to feature nude entertainment at the NorShor Theatre, NorthShor Experience president Jim Gradishar didn't exactly break out the bacchanalia Friday night.

The scene at the NorShor's first night with booked topless dancers wasn't overly salacious. Rather, it seemed like a Friday night at a bar with some unusual background entertainment.

Between 8 and 9 p.m., only one dancer performed. For perhaps 20 minutes, she danced topless but did not remove her G-string bottom. Five men and one woman sat in the sunken performance area on the theater's upper floor to watch her.Occasionally, three of the men walked to the stage andoffered the dancer money, but otherwise the scene was far from rowdy.

After performing to songs including "Maria Maria" by Carlos Santana and "Closing Time" by Semisonic, the dancer donned a pink negligee and walked around the bar, chatting with patrons.

Gradishar said he had scheduled five dancers, but only one showed up on time.

"We knew that the entertainers might be a little difficult as far as responsibility goes," he said. "I found that out on my first night, I guess."

About 35 people milled about the historic theater. Although three of them were women, most were middle-aged men.

Much of the foot traffic in the NorShor Friday night seemed to be bar patrons more interested in blowing off workweek steam than seeing topless dancing.

About a third of the people stayed on the theater's bottom level, presumably so they could talk with each other in the comparative quiet. The other two-thirds congregated mostly around the bar on the upper floor.

None of the patrons wanted to speak to the News Tribune on the record, but a few mentioned that the NorShor was their favorite watering hole and that the dancing didn'taffect their decision to come there Friday night.

"I think people's fears of this have been overblown," one patron said.

The NorShor's mezzanine bore the most noticeable signs of change. Gradishar has added a metallic dance floor and stripper pole. The floor is lit up by rainbow-colored lights, and reddish fixtures over most of the bar area's lighting gave the theater's upper level a reddish glow. Some frieze-like statues on the lower level have been given new ornamental breasts and some bar decorations featured busty barmaids in peekaboo outfits.

The NorShor opened at 4:30 p.m. and planned to close at 2 a.m. Gradishar said he expects those to be his hours six days a week.

Gradishar said he was happy with how his opening night turned out.

"This place is rockin'," he said. "I can't believe it."

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Lone stripper celebrates temporary NorShor victory
Club gets OK to open, but may have more difficult time attracting a clientele
Source: Duluth News-Tribune unsigned editorial, Sun, Aug. 6, 2006

Did you hear about the people with notepads and video cameras taking down the license plates of patrons heading into the strip club?

All right, that tactic used by pseudo-vigilantes for morality in various cities didn't happen here as the NorShor Theatre's strip club opened for business Friday. Even if it had been tried, there wouldn't have been many numbers to write down.

As the much ballyhooed show opened, only one dancer out of five scheduled showed up on time, performing before a decidedly less-than-sellout crowd of five men and one woman. (About 35 people milled around elsewhere in the theater, the News Tribune reported, and more may have arrived late-night after the newspaper'sreporter left.) For the lone dancer's sake, here's hoping they tipped well.

To be sure, many a local venture by eventually successful entrepreneurs can point to similar modest beginnings. But if the first night is any indication, ennui and indifference may succeed in accomplishing what city and state laws have failed to do so far. Is there really that great a demand for a second strip club in Duluth to compete with Canal Park's longstanding andrespected Saratoga Club?

The economics of adult entertainment aside, it should be noted the Earth didn't move Friday night, despite club owner Jim Gradishar's pronouncement that "This place is rockin'." Duluth remains the same family friendly community it was before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis issued his injunction last week giving the club the go-ahead for nude dancing. Yet, it's still an unfortunate use for a historic building that should be the grand dame (and not a wayward niece) of Duluth's theater space.

So with the club open for business with live dancers, or dancer, behind the cryptic marquee message of "Live free or die" (expropriated from the motto of the state of New Hampshire), city and state lawmakers should prepare to get back to work crafting rules that will stick. That's especially true with adversaries like NorShor attorney Randall Tigue, who has made a career challenging adult entertainment laws in Minnesota and has succeeded, temporarily at least, in driving a First Amendment truck through holes in the city and state laws.

At issue in the state law are geographic restrictions effectively making it impossible to locate an adult business anywhere, the judge said, prohibiting an activity he accepted as a constitutionally protected form of free expression. Legislators who drafted the law had thought those loopholes were sealed, basing the measure on a seemingly ironclad Delaware law.

"It's withstood judicial challenge in federal court," Minnesota state Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, said of the Delaware law. But a big difference between that law and his is the Delaware law grandfathered existing businesses, a provision Dille said his law neither intended nor allowed, despite some vague language about it in a section on permitting.

That's where Duluth's local ordinance comes in, with the City Council drafting a measure that would grandfather the Saratoga Club while prohibiting other adult operations from starting. In response, club lawyer Tigue reached into hisarsenal of ammunition to call the measure an improperly passed zoning ordinance, approved without the benefit of public hearings. Judge Davis agreed.

Though the laws may have to be rewritten, city and state lawyers haven't given up and are still fighting in court. The injunction is only temporary, after all, and they've only lost the first round.

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

I wonder if DNT reporters and editorial writers are monitoring attendance at the well-liked, family friendly, longlived, and respected, Club Saratoga.

Posted by: Eric Dings
8/6/2006 2:42 PM

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Yes, life is short Jim and life is to lived with respect and honor for one another. There is no dignity in the place you have created. Living life for sexual pleasure distorts and prevents a person from experiencing life the way God designed us to. A strip club promotes addictions and works to destroy the sanctified love that keeps homes and families together.

Posted by: Kathy
8/6/2006 3:02 PM

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I see a lot of passion and drive going into the buisness. My only fear is this is driving forward with little thought to the cost along the way. How does this effect those other buisnesses that have invested in this area?

Posted by: Karl Joesph
8/6/2006 4:58 PM

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Just a word to the wise, Jim. It doesn't matter a tinker's damn what your lawyer thinks. The only thing that matters in court is what the judge and jury thinks. If you don't believe that, just ask Mr. Tigue about the cases he lost representing Ferris Alexander, the strip club in Coates Minnesota, and many others. I bet he doesn't say much about those to you. Also, there are plenty who do not share your opinions about Ferris Alexander. Many people do not believe his habit of buying properties in the path of urban renewal in cities across the region, letting them become enormous eyesores (not even taking into account the nature of the businesses within the buildings, he would let the buildings themselves look like the grimiest part of skid row) and then try to force the city to buy them back for sums grotesquely in excess of their actual value. In short, blackmail. Not behavior that anyone should find admirable.

Posted by: JGreg
8/6/2006 6:28 PM

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Jim, if the neighbors don't want that kind of business, you could have at least taken that into account. You see this as nothing more than a game and everyone else is wrong. Eric Ringsred (the building owner) is nothing but a problem when it comes to what the public as a whole wants in their city. If I ever need an ER doctor and it is Eric Ringsred, if possible, I will be transferred to another hospital or will wait for another Dr. How can a Dr own a bar where people consume alchohol and smoke and not see it as a conflict of interest to what he does for a living? Anything for a buck eh Eric?

Posted by:
8/6/2006 9:10 PM

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Wow my family is way cooler than most.

Posted by: Sarah
8/6/2006 11:20 PM

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Yeah, Old Downtown was so family friendly before the Norshor became a Strip Club. I wish I could live in a fantasy land too.

Posted by: Red Lion Patron
8/7/2006 3:27 AM

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I view the Norshor as a perfect addition to the neighborhood. You know the one, with a casino, adult toy store, porno stores...and problem bars. City in decline on many levels.

Posted by: Bob Nweave
8/7/2006 8:54 AM

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I think those who want "Old Duluth" to come back should understand that Old Duluth was in fact filled with Saloons and Prostitution in the early 1900s. Below Michigan street was St. Croix Ave which was know for this activity and Duluth was also known for having the highest # of cases of Syphilis in the midwest. Prostitution is a large part of Duluths history, but this is only nude dancing. So for those of you who want "Old Duluth" back, nude dancing is a great compromise.


Posted by: John
8/7/2006 10:41 AM

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Hugh Hefner did it, why not Jim? Money is everything these days, good luck!!!

Posted by:
8/7/2006 10:43 AM

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good luck I'm sure your business will do just fine.

Posted by:
8/7/2006 11:53 AM

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best of luck. just because some people don't approve doesn't mean its pointless to continue your work. was there this much stink over club "toga" or was that acceptable because it was the only strip club in town? or is this all a much bigger deal because of the building its in? soon people will find something else to complain about...

Posted by:
8/7/2006 12:42 PM

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IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT DON'T GO!

Posted by: Robin (Shakopee,Mn)
8/7/2006 3:06 PM

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Who cares? With all of the problems downtown...this is a minor one. Nothing else has worked in that theatre...where were all of these "Duluth traditionalists" when various other business ventures were tried in the location?

It isn't going to hurt the surrounding business neighbors...the homeless, drunks and oppressive parking policies is what hurts downtown business...not strip clubs.

Posted by:
8/7/2006 3:51 PM

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Jean Sramek has mixed feelings about the beloved NorShor Theater's new incarnation.

Source: The Column, MN Artists.org, Aug. 17, 2006

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Strippers often are enslaved
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Sat., Aug. 19, 2006

Regarding Jim Gradishar and his strip club venture ("Nude dancing at NorShor" and "Lone stripper celebrates temporary NorShor victory," Aug. 6), it's astonishing and disgusting that in a time when exploitation of women and children is at epidemic proportions, Duluth, with all its progressive talk, would promote it on the front page of the News Tribune.

In a culture that sexualizes girls through clothing, marketing, television, and music, strip clubs can be another, far more dangerous step into trouble for many. Strip clubs are not just good fun, they objectify and exploit girls and women by preying on their vulnerabilities.

In sworn testimony before the Michigan House Ethics and Constitutional Law Committee, a former manager said he manipulated girls as young as 14 to dance by plying them with drugs and separating them from anyone who might care about them (americandecency.org/porn).

The State Department reports 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually. Of these,80 percent are female and half are children. An estimated 70 percent end up as slaves in brutal sexual exploitation. And that doesn't count Americans kidnapped, tricked or forced into sexual slavery.

St. Paul and Minneapolis have some of the nation's greatest concentrations of sex clubs and are fed by this trafficking. Is Duluth next?

The issue is just as much about men as about girls. Don't forget, some men graduate from viewing to rape or even murder in their lust for more gratification when the high of one form fades.

It's sad this kind of exploitation is constitutionally protected, but words such as "under God" and veterans' memorials with religious symbols somehow are violations of the First Amendment. Now that's really perverted.

Karen Young
Hermantown

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A blurb about er.com on perfectduluthday.com

PerfectDuluthDay, we noticed you, too. Thanks for the mention. —[ericringsred.com]

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Just about anything could lead to murder
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Aug. 27, 2006

I concur with the points made in the Aug. 19 letter, "Strippers are often enslaved," which was about the dangers associated with stripping. I especially agreed with the point that "some men graduate from viewing to rape or even murder in their lust for more gratification." Yes, it's true: Viewing naked women sometimes leads to murder. Of course, this makes every man a potential murderer, with the possible exception of Tom Cruise.

We should be aware of other things that lead to murder. For example, John Wayne Gacy was a party clown, and we can infer from this only one conclusion: Making balloon animals leads to murder. Jeffrey Dahmer wore glasses, most likely for the purpose of seeing his way on the road to murder. Hitler loved dogs, and I shudder to think how many potentially genocidal dog owners live in Duluth alone.

I thank the writer of this letter for her valuable safety tip. Women must stay fully dressed at all times so we may finally free this country of murder.

Now if we can only find a way to get people to butt out of each other's personal lives, we'd be in a utopia.

Jason Johnson
Cloquet

***



Nightclub owner dressed for long haul
By Chris Hamilton, News-Tribune Staff Writer/Justin Hayworth/News-Tribune
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Sat., Oct. 21, 2006

Skard, Inc. plays at the NorShor Experience Oct. 13 The promised strippers are a no-show at Duluth's historic NorShor Theatre, but the primary owner of the upscale burlesque club vowed they will be back in time for New Year's Eve.

When downtown adult bookstore owner Jim Gradishar announced his intentions this summer with NorShor landlord Eric Ringsred to shake the beloved but troubled venue into a real money-maker, it drew angry catcalls from nearby business owners and some city leaders.

Recent rumors that Gradishar's investment was struggling buoyed his opponents. After all, it's been pretty chilly in the upstairs bar with little heat; he was open only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and his "Live Nude Girls" neon sign often was unlit.

So is his club, NorShor Experience, failing?

"Hell, no," Gradishar said while taking a smoke break from rebuilding the main-floor concession stand into another bar. "I'll lose everything if we give up now. I'm not going anywhere."

Gradishar, 43, said he mortgaged his home to open Duluth's second totally nude club with full bar.

"It's been real hard," he said of the past few months. "We're basically not even really open. We're treading water on the weekends, trying to get some music in here, trying to get people in the building."

Since August, he said he's had strippers maybe 10 times in the upstairs movie theater. Last week, he brought in heavy metal and reggae acts. A few times he's had nude girls dancing next to the bands.

"It just seems too hokey and not intimate enough to have girls," he said of the movie house, which doesn't meet his standards for a gentleman's club.

Meanwhile, the cavernous main room is used mostly for storage.

Sprinkler System Needed

Gradishar guarantees that the entertainment will bring customers in droves. He plans to keep the club open from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., six days a week.

From the outset, Gradishar said his business would have nude dancing, live music, comedy and sports. But he initially expected the theater to begin daily operations by July.

The imposition of state fire codes by city fire department officials means the theatre's mezzanine and downstairs lobby cannot be used as a stage. Gradishar said bringing it to code means he and Ringsred must spend $70,000 to have a long-needed sprinkler system installed in the 1920s-era building.

He said work has begun and will be complete by the end of the year. When the first stage of renovations and safety updating are complete, Gradishar said he and his partners will have poured more than $200,000 into the dilapidated theater since last spring.

Duluth Fire Marshal Erik Simonson said he doesn't necessarily agree with the NorShor's new use, but is glad to see it brought into full fire-safety compliance. The sprinkler system in particular could save the building's structural integrity in a fire.

Simonson said he has no answer about why the mezzanine stage never was a problem until Gradishar took over.

"For 20 or 15 years, I heard there was a stage up there and no one [from the city] said a word," Gradishar said. "They said they never noticed before."

Maybe Gradishar's much-larger stage caught the building inspector's attention, Simonson said.

"I was never ordered by anyone to pick the place apart," Simonson said. "I wouldn't do that anyway. That's just not right."

The club's other partner is Gradishar's fiancée, Tina Jackson, who will run much of the day-to-day operations. Gradishar said he and his team have agreed that no one will get any profits until the renovations are paid off.

Next summer, Gradishar said, he will take aim at fixing the aging marquee and shabby-looking front entrance, as well as repairing broken glass, mirrors and other items throughout the building.

Opponents Biding Time

Gradishar has had to fight the city and state just to open in the first place. Both governments passed regulatory measures that would have put him out of business.

But Gradishar won a major victory in August when he received an injunction from a federal judge that temporarily set aside a new city ordinance and state law saying exactly where strip clubs can be located. The judge's order indicated Gradishar's unconstitutionality claims have legitimacy.

The case before Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan remains open. A settlement conference is scheduled in Boylan's St. Paul courtroom on Nov. 17. A trial also is tentatively set for August 2007.

Mayor Herb Bergson joined the Old Downtown Duluth business group at a press conference last May where members — many of whom were longtime supporters of Ringsred and the NorShor — expressed their disappointment with Ringsred's plans. The group predicted higher crime rates and stymied development in an area that finally is experiencing investment and growth.

Ringsred has said the strip club fits Duluth's self-image as a tourist and convention town. Old Downtown's bars, restaurants, shopping, hotels and the casino would all benefit from his enterprise, he says.

Penny Perry, owns and operates Perry Framing across the street, is among those who asked the noted preservationist to reconsider his "misguided idea" out of respect for his neighbors. She said she remains concerned about how the club will affect families with children who use a nearby visitation center or park or the elderly living in Greysolon Plaza next door.

"I guess it's been kind of a wait-and-see thing," said Perry, an artist who often works late at her shop. "From what I can tell, it looks pretty dead, unless there's some secret back entrance that nobody knows about. I don't know if people are buying what they are selling."

Perry and another business owner had mild complaints about trash and urine found by their stores after one concert. But they said Gradishar does a pretty good job of cleaning up after his customers.

City Councilor Don Ness used to own a vintage clothing store on the same block as the theater. He said he hasn't heard any complaints.

"But the dancers aren't really there," he said. "The disappointment is still as raw and real now as the day he made the announcement. It's still a black eye on downtown."

After Ringsred's plans became public, he agreed to meet with Mayor Herb Bergson and go over an offer to sell the building to the Zeppa Foundation. The family had pledged to pay $250,000 for the theater, make it a nonprofit and invest $50,000 annually into renovations and arts programming.

The Zeppas, through a spokeswoman, declined to say whether the old offer or a new one remains on the table should the strip club fail.

***

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

Ringsred and Gradishar are perverts.

Ida Y
10/21/2006 8:40 PM

***

Herb Bergson is a Liberal nut job.

Ida Y
10/21/2006 8:42 PM

***

Ringsred's got more money than he knows what to do with and is intent on hanging on to as much of it as he can. His corner cutting and lowest bidder type dealings are well known in this town. In his arrogance, he claims to have the "best interest" of the old downtown at heart, but does almost nothing to reinforce that image. He expects his tenants to foot the bill for the upkeep and code maintenance of his properties, which incedentally is by law HIS responsibility, thus foisting the cost of those requirements upon his tenants. I say the man is a cheapskate and little better than a slum lord. If he had ANY integrity at all, he'd be investing his wn money into bringing the NorShor and the other properties he owns around town back to their former glory. THAT is the way to reinvest in Old Downtown. I'm thinking that A&L Properties have better lawyers than Ringsred can dredge up and it won't be long befor they set their sights on the NorShor and Opera block. Under the circumstances, the change would be a refreshing one considering Ringsred's propensity for shirking his responsibilities as a property owner.

10/21/2006 5:15 PM

***

Agreed. Ringsred's eaten another one, bolstered by his own misplaced pride. I'm glad the building's being (barely) brought up to code. But where's the money going to come from to really put the physical building where it needs to be to preserve it for the future? Ringsred's made it clear it won't be from him. So who's next for bankruptcy, if he continues to refuse to sell to Zeppa/another good fit?

Mary F
10/21/2006 2:53 PM

***

Whatever the reason, 200K is a fair chunk of change! This poor sucker's sinking that kind of money into a building he doesn't even own! Once again, Ringsred's gotten someone else to pour money into a building that he should be keeping up. What does he care? So long as Ringsred's not spending his OWN money. He's much better at spending someone else's.

10/21/2006 8:53 AM

***

Save the NorShor by devoting it to Dylan
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Sat., Nov. 11, 2006

This past summer, like every summer, I returned to my old hometown, Duluth. I like to get back to voyage in the Boundary Waters with my brother and to catch up with old friends.

I read the News Tribune online and do try to keep up with what's going on in "the old town," as my dad used to call it. I've been saddened to read over the years about the decay of the NorShor Theatre and the way the once grand entertainment spot had been degraded.

Duluth had a lot of downtown theaters when I was a kid, back before TV killed off the movie business. The Granada. The Strand. The Lyric. The Lyceum. The Garrick. And the Gary. None compared to the elegant NorShor, though, with its art-deco splendor and its brightly lit marquee.

Late on a Saturday night during my visit, I saw that the NorShor's doors still were open and decided to stop and check out one my old boyhood haunts. We'd go there nearly every Saturday to see latest Hollywood offerings, and I used to like to sit in the balcony, parking all my troubles at the aisle.

I was aghast at what I saw that night. The deterioration was shocking. It looked like a hodgepodge of junk had been delivered. The lobby and the refreshment center were ragged. I went upstairs and saw two girls who appeared to be in their late teens straddling a pole set up for a striptease. The thumping sound of rap music exploded from the sound system. The place seemed like something out of "The Last Picture Show," as it seemed ready to close for the last time.

I know Duluth has been grappling for a long time with saving the NorShor and turning it back into a civic treasure.

Well, here's an idea. The city of Duluth should purchase the theater and the Temple Building next door and turn them into the Bob Dylan Theatre for the Performing Arts and Museum. The NorShor could be a venue for jazz, blues, folk, country, rock, dance, live theater, ballet, opera and avant-garde film. The Temple Building could house a collection of Dylan's guitars, music, memorabilia and album covers. There could be short films airing about the life and times of this incredible artist.

Dylan, a rock icon, was born in Duluth before moving to Hibbing at age seven. On Jan. 31, 1959, during his senior year in high school, he returned to Duluth for a concert in the National Guard Armory featuring Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion & the Belmonts. Just two nights later, those artists gave their final performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, dying later that night in a plane crash.

Dylan's Duluth connections no doubt had a great impact on his life and music. Think about "Highway 61 Revisited," the blues highway that stretches from New Orleans through Memphis to Duluth.

Dylan was part of the era that made history with music and was involved in the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King's marches. He participated in other protest movements, such as Farm Aid, which tried to help America's suffering farmers.

Dylan also appeared in several movies and today hosts a weekly radio program on XM satellite radio. His music is featured weekly on Sirius satellite radio. Seems like no one can get enough of "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "The Times They Are A-Changin.'" He's been one of America's most prolific songwriters and will be long remembered for his contribution to Americana.

And what better place to honor him than Duluth? He played the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena in October 1998. He was so impressed he brought Paul Simon for a second concert the next summer at Bayfront Festival Park.

As Duluth continues to work to improve "the old town," and new developments such as the Sheraton Hotel and condo project give the city a lift, the NorShor could be and should be a key component of downtown revitalization.

In addition to naming streets in Duluth for Dylan, as was done this past summer, and celebrating his connections to the city via the planned renovations for the old Duluth armory, the NorShor could be dedicated solely to Dylan's legacy.

Dylan is one of the nation's greatest poet-songwriters. He stands on the world stage with legends the likes of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. He has millions of fans around the world who, with proper promotion, could easily be lured to Duluth to see a Dylan museum.

If Dylan got behind the project, the idea could come to fruition. So let's get on with restoring one of Duluth's historic venues.

JIM PAYMAR is a native of Duluth who now lives in Rockville Centre, N.Y., and is president of Paymar Communications Group.

***

City reaches deal on nude dancers
By Mark Stodghill, Duluth News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Sat., Nov. 18, 2006

The city of Duluth reached a tentative settlement with NorthShor Experience on Friday that would allow the business to have nude dancers at the NorShor Theatre downtown.

Deputy City Attorney Alison Lutterman and Minneapolis attorney Randall Tigue, who represents Jim Gradishar, the president of NorthShor Experience Inc., reached the agreement before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in Minneapolis.

In May, the state Legislature passed a law describing where adult entertainment establishments could be located, but gave local communities the option to opt out from the state statute by passing local ordinances superseding it. The city of Duluth did just that.

The state statute prevented adult establishments from being within 500 feet of a residence, 1,500 feet of another adult establishment or 2,800 feet of a school or place of worship. Also, adult establishments could operate only between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Duluth's ordinance specified that adult establishments had to be at least 400 feet away from pedestrian plazas and 600 feet away from churches, parks, schools and residential zones.

The NorShor strip club is across the street from Lakeplace Park, a pedestrian plaza.

In July, Gradishar challenged both the state statute and the local ordinance by filing a lawsuit in federal court.

In August, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis issued a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order against the city, prohibiting it from enforcing its ordinance or the state statute, which led to the negotiations that resulted in the tentative settlement.

Lutterman said the court was of the opinion that the local opt-out ordinance was a zoning ordinance, rather than a police regulation ordinance. Therefore, the city was required to take it to the planning commission and to the City Council. Because it wasn't taken to the planning commission, the court concluded that the ordinance was "invalidly enacted."

"What we tentatively agreed to today [Friday] was, in exchange for dropping their challenge to the city's opt-out ordinance, the city would recognize the adult entertainment owned by Mr. Gradishar at the NorShor Theatre as grandfathered in because he was there at the time the ordinance was enacted," Lutterman said.

Lutterman said her office consulted with city administration and a representative of the City Council, Russ Stover, before reaching the tentative settlement, which has to be approved by the council.

"If the City Council approves settlement, he can have dancers there, but he still has to comply with the building code," Lutterman said. "He will be considered a legal nonconforming user under the zoning code."

Gradishar was pleased by the news. "It's what I expected, but it's nice to be 100 percent sure," he said.

It's not quite showtime yet, however. The imposition of state fire codes by city fire department officials have required that a $70,000 sprinkler system be installed in the 1920s-era building. Gradishar expects that work to be done by the end of the year.

"If all goes right, New Year's Eve, look out," he said. "We hope to be in operation before that, but we hope to have a big bash for New Year's."

***

NorShor experience was like no other
Jim Heffernan, Duluth News-Tribune columnist
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006

The folks hoping to save Duluth's NorShor Theater from eventually suffering the fate of the Palace in Superior (turned to rubble last week) asked me to write something about what it was like to attend a movie at the NorShor in its heyday.

I was born just two years before the building that housed the old Orpheum Theater was gutted and turned into what became the NorShor as we know it. It opened in 1941, and its unique art deco design has been hailed as one of the finest examples of that style. Vestiges of it can still be seen today in the NorShor's present — lamentable — condition almost 25 years after it ceased to exist as a regular theater.

But what was it like to go to a movie there in the days before television, when movies were the principal form of entertainment for most folks? It's been said that 1946 was the peak box-office year for movies in America. That's about when I started going to movies at the NorShor, accompanied by parents in the early years.

Even to a child, the NorShor was a magical place — at least it was to this child who would rather go to a movie than a ball game any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Duluth had a lot of movie theaters scattered across the downtown and in some outlying neighborhoods, but nothing compared to the NorShor.

Its main entrance was eye-popping, with a hall of mirrors leading from the box office to the auditorium lobby area, which was dominated by a pair of curving staircases leading to the mezzanine and balcony.

Back on the main floor, the auditorium walls featured huge, dimly lighted murals — female nudes pausing in a forest glade. Art. Well, art deco.

Before each movie began the screen was shielded by a huge curtain inside the imposing proscenium arch. When the feature was ready to begin, and soundtrack music rose, the movie's image would be projected at first on the curtain, which, in a few seconds, would be drawn back to reveal the screen. When the movie was over, as “The End” flashed on the screen, the curtain would glide shut.

I've heard that the owners had to keep a member of the union representing stagehands employed at the theater just to open and close the curtain.

No other theater in Duluth even attempted such pageantry or had such class. It made going to movies at the NorShor really special, like dining in a fine restaurant versus stopping by a café for a blue-plate special.

In my experience, after the movie, we'd often peruse the paintings in the narrow but sizable art gallery off the main downstairs lobby where local artists and photographers would display their works.

Still, you were there just to see a movie, even if it was in a unique setting. Once the lights went down and the curtain opened, the NorShor was just another movie house, but somehow the lavish surroundings enhanced your enjoyment.

All of this cost the theater's operators money, of course, which was probably why the NorShor charged more than some others movie houses for kids — 12 cents. A child could get into the Lyceum for 9 cents.

***

The old NorShor offered memorable experiences
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Nov. 27, 2006

I thought Jim Heffernan's Nov. 19 column, "NorShor experience was like no other," was right on the money. Having lived in Duluth my entire life, I also remember the NorShor when only the NorShor, Granada and Lyceum were it. It was a simpler time, with fond memories. By the time the 1960s rolled around, Duluth was changing economically, and downtown changed considerably.

I am glad the NorShor is still standing. I hope the NorShor can bring more to the city of Duluth than nude dancers. I commend the friends of the State and Orpheum in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Instead of meeting a wrecking ball, those venues host a variety of different events.

Thank you for the opportunity to write about things that are important to me.

Leona Krieg
Duluth

***

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