Risque restaurant quietly closes doors in rural south Georgia

DARIEN, Ga. - Travelers along Interstate 95 in McIntosh County who like a little extra skin with their chicken sandwiches will have to look elsewhere.

 

Cafe Risque, which featured nude dancing and a full menu of dinner fare, quietly shut its doors on April 1.

County officials are glad to see it go and are working to make sure it's not replaced by the same kind of business.

Located at Georgia Highway 251 and Interstate 95 at Exit 49, the restaurant attracted truck drivers and other travelers with its pink billboards that proclaimed, "We Bare All!"

Realtor Julie Chapman Amerson, who has the 3-acre property and building listed for sale for $975,000, said owner Asher Sullivan of Alachua, Fla., put the property on the market a few months ago. The club stayed open for a while with a local manager, but business had declined since its heyday in the 1990s.

"The owner's attorney said they were going to liquidate because they weren't making any money," Ms. Amerson said.

County Commission Chairman Boyd Gault pointed out during the commission's regular meeting Tuesday that the club opened in 1990s through the trickery of its founder, the late Jerry Sullivan, when he applied for his business license. Jerry Sullivan was Asher Sullivan's father.

"He said he was going to open a cafe," Gault said, "but he didn't mention any of this other stuff."

The county has an ordinance prohibiting nude dancing at clubs that serve alcohol, but nothing that would prevent a restaurant similar to Cafe Risque from opening in the future.

The commissioners instructed County Attorney Jim Coppage to explore the legalities of a new ordinance that would keep such clubs out of the county.

Commissioner David Stevens said he was glad to the see the club go.

"I think it's a good thing for McIntosh County for it to be gone," he said. "I'm sorry the people who worked there lost their jobs, but there's got to be a better way to make a living."

Mr. Stevens said the club's closing also takes ammunition away from those who would ridicule the small city of Darien and rural McIntosh County.

"It's been a joke," he said. "A lot of people like to poke fun at the county, calling it the Darien Ballet and stuff like that."

Jerry Sullivan, who died at age 46 in 2006, opened similar clubs elsewhere in Georgia and Florida, including one in 2001 in Lavonia off Interstate 85, where he again used deceptive tactics in obtaining a business license.

He told Lavonia officials the restaurant would serve country cooking and would be called Skeeter's Big Biscuits.

After a protracted fight over the restaurant, Mr. Sullivan kept it open and vowed to never sell it to the city. But a third party acquired the property and then the city bought it in July 2008. The city shut down the club and removed the billboards that advertised it from along the highway.

McIntosh County Manager Luther Smart said the Darien club's closing would have little economic impact.

"We might lose a few dollars in sales tax," he said, "but I never saw many cars out there anyway."

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