Save Money in this Sunday's paper

comments

Strip club owner with ties to Patrick Cannon had access to officials

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/10/17/38/sT3u8.Em.138.jpeg|316
    MARK HAMES - mhames@charlotteobserver.com
    Emails showed top city staffers paid close attention to the Uptown Cabaret expansion project. Former Mayor Patrick Cannon received donations from the club’s owners and his associates.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/10/17/38/kWkts.Em.138.jpeg|316
    MARK HAMES - mhames@charlotteobserver.com
    Uptown Cabaret is located at the corner of East Morehead and South Tryon streets, just south of uptown Charlotte.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/10/17/38/1esvHF.Em.138.jpeg|110
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Uptown Cabaret owner Brian Dominick was looking to expand his topless club at Morehead and Tryon streets and potentially develop the surrounding block.

More Information

  • Uptown Cabaret contributions

    Former Mayor Patrick Cannon’s campaign finance reports show that he has long drawn financial support from the hospitality industry, including hotel owners and taxi cab companies.

    Starting in 2009, Brian Dominick and others associated with the Uptown Cabaret emerged as major campaign donors to Cannon, a Democrat who was elected to City Council that year after a five-year hiatus.

    Altogether, Dominick, along with his wife, Betty Ann, and four business associates, gave $17,550 to Cannon’s campaigns from 2009 to 2013, according to campaign finance reports.

    Betty Ann Dominick gave $1,000 in December 2009, while Brian Dominick contributed the maximum $4,000 in the 2013 primary.

    The other contributors – Tom Wicker, Daniel Burris, Scott Coffman and Wayne Kosbe – have been listed in N.C. Secretary of State records for Morehead Tryon Properties, which owns the club location.

    In 2011, those associated with the club accounted for 11 percent of Cannon’s total contributions. Wicker held a fundraiser in July 2011 for Cannon with a man named Larry Parks, according to campaign finance records.

    The Observer has previously reported that a Sheraton hotel representative named Larry Parks told the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in November to sign off on the hotel’s liquor license application despite incomplete paperwork. Parks said he knew someone at the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission “who would take care of it,” according to a report from an Alcohol Law Enforcement agent.

    Wicker, Coffman, Kosbe and Parks could not be reached for comment. Burris said he was a silent partner in the club and sold his interest more than a year ago. He said his contributions were “personal” and that he has never met Cannon. Rick Rothacker and Gavin Off



Uptown Cabaret owner Brian Dominick was looking to expand his topless club at Morehead and Tryon streets and potentially develop the surrounding block. So in March 2010, he approached Charlotte city officials about his plans.

On the list to attend one meeting was then-City Council member Patrick Cannon, who had budding political and business connections with the club owner. Starting in 2009, Cannon had begun receiving campaign contributions from Dominick and associates that would eventually tally more than $17,000. His E-Z Parking company would also manage lots around the club.

Emails obtained by the Observer through a public records request do not show city officials making any concessions to Dominick, and they don’t indicate whether Cannon participated in the meeting. But they do show top city staffers, including deputy city manager Ron Kimble, paying close attention to the project.

Dominick is not the only strip club owner with ties to Cannon, the former Charlotte mayor who pleaded guilty in June to a public corruption charge. Federal prosecutors allege Cannon accepted a bribe in January 2013 from a club owner – identified by the Observer as David “Slim” Baucom – whose establishment was in the path of the Blue Line light-rail extension.

The Uptown Cabaret may now also be of interest to federal prosecutors, the emails suggest.

On April 22, a Mecklenburg County information technology manager requested a review of Uptown Cabaret-related records, according to one email. That’s the same day federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to the county for a broad swath of documents. The email also requests information about Baucom and his clubs.

County Attorney Marvin Bethune declined to comment on the email. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins also declined to comment but said the Cannon investigation is ongoing. Cannon declined to comment for this story.

James Wyatt, an attorney for Dominick, said his client is “fully prepared and willing to answer any questions that may be asked of him by the United States Attorney’s Office.”

Dominick would “be happy to answer any and all further questions once the government’s investigation of others is completed,” Wyatt added.

Kimble said he and other city officials handled Dominick’s inquiries appropriately, like any other project. “We did a thorough review and did it thoughtfully,” Kimble said.

Emails detail discussions

Emails starting in March 2010 show discussions between Dominick and city officials over standards that needed to be met as part of an expansion to his club, which opened in the mid-1990s just blocks from the city’s bank towers and the Carolina Panthers’ stadium.

Early that month, city officials arranged a meeting with Dominick to discuss “zoning/South Tryon/driveway/sidewalk issues related to the Uptown Cabaret site,” according to an email sent by a city land manager. Charlotte Department of Transportation officials were also set to meet with Dominick about a plan to reduce lanes on South Tryon street, according to the email.

In addition to Cannon, then-Assistant City Manager Jim Schumacher and Planning Director Debra Campbell were on the list to attend one of the meetings.

Afterward, Dominick thanked Kimble, the deputy city manager, and his staff. Dominick wrote in an email that he was reassured that the Tryon Street lane reduction would have no effect on his plan to eliminate the College Street connector, a street that runs diagonally through his property.

“The information provided was quite useful in my efforts of converting the block into a high- to mid-rise mixed-use development,” Dominick wrote, adding he was actively marketing the property through the CBRE real estate firm.

On March 11, 2010, Kimble asked Campbell where her department stood on the review of Dominick’s request. She said there were no changes her staff could make for Dominick, but she would support a rezoning that would allow the club to “opt out of the standards.” Property records, however, show the club didn’t pursue a rezoning.

In an interview, Kimble said he recalls convening city staff to talk generally about “the categories of standards that would need to be met” for the proposed expansion, such as setbacks, sidewalk widths, height of structures, parking spaces, driveways, buffer yards and trees.

On March 23, 2010, Campbell asked Shad Spencer, another city official, to get in touch with the club about the “specific requirements that must be met.” She also asked Spencer to clarify that the city wasn’t making any “concessions,” saying there was a “miscommunication between staff and the owners about the extent of the standards that needed to be met.”

The emails indicate that Spencer talked with the club about sidewalk and planting-strip requirements, and that the Uptown Cabaret had no objections.

Kimble’s role

A building permit was taken out in February 2011 for the $350,000 expansion, according to county records. The contractor on the project was the Baucom Group & Associates, which is run by “Slim” Baucom’s son, W.D. Baucom.

Nearly a year later, in January 2012, Kimble checked in on the project, asking a city official to “resolve outstanding issues regarding” the certificate of occupancy for the project, the emails indicate. The club received its certificate on Feb. 14, 2012, county records show.

Kimble handles economic development issues for the city and often works closely with the city’s hospitality industry, including the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, a lobbying group.

When the City Council voted to hire Ron Carlee as city manager in early 2013, Cannon was the only elected official to vote against him. Cannon wanted Kimble for the top job.

In an interview, Kimble said Cannon never contacted him about the Uptown Cabaret.

“I was contacted by Brian Dominick,” Kimble said. “He asked if he could talk about his future plans and what would be the development standards that he would have to meet. When he met with me, I included as many people as I could. I included the proper city staff members.”

Kimble said Dominick and staff talked about the club expanding as well as long-term plans for the property.

Dominick, he said, “wanted to know, ‘What would happen if I expanded? What would happen if I sold it and tore it down?’ 

Asked about the FBI investigation, Kimble said it would be inappropriate to comment. Carlee has said that he and other city officials have been interviewed by federal investigators but has declined to provide other names.

Campbell in March released a statement saying that she has “always demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and integrity.”

Future plans

Two years after the Uptown Cabaret completed its expansion, more changes are in the works at the club.

Since Cannon’s arrest, the club has dropped the former mayor’s parking company, E-Z Parking, which handled parking around the Uptown Cabaret since at least the summer of 2011.

And in May, the Observer reported that the three-acre property where the Uptown Cabaret and the Midnight Diner are located is on the market for $20 million, according to a real estate listing. The College Street connector still runs through the property.

“The property or pieces of the property have been up for sale since 2007,” Wyatt, Dominick’s attorney, said. “There is nothing unusual about the property being for sale.” Staff researcher Maria David and staff writers Steve Harrison, Gavin Off and Ames Alexander contributed.

Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
Your 2 Cents
Share your opinion with our Partners
Learn More
CharlotteObserver.com