Originally created 12/17/05

Morris buys Marine Room building downtown



Raucous revelry at the Marine Room is over.

The longtime strip club closed last Saturday because the building's new owner has other plans for the downtown building, located at 627 Broad St.

The new owner, Morris Communications Co., closed on the deal Friday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed and public records on the sale were not immediately available Friday.

Augusta-based Morris Communications is a major downtown property owner and the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

Plans for the 26,800-square-foot, two-story structure have not been made, said Bob Kuhar, Morris' vice president of properties and facilities.

"We own buildings on both sides of it," he said. "It may work with the properties we already have."

The building, which was built in the 1890s, was acquired from the Marine Room's owner, Leon Ward.

Located across the street from the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, the strip club is the second adult establishment to close in downtown Augusta this year. The owner of Baby Dolls closed that decades-old club in April.

There are now only three Broad Street clubs - The Joker Lounge, the Discotheque and Fantasy's Showgirls - remaining under a grandfather exemption to the county's stringent adult business ordinance adopted in 1997.

The bar owners are not allowed to transfer ownership, so if the Marine Room and Baby Dolls reopened, they would be subject to the regulations and would not be allowed to locate in the central business district.

Speaking on behalf of Mr. Ward, his son Clay said that it was "business as usual" on the strip club's final day and that his 76-year-old father had no regrets closing the club, which he had owned since 1968.

Clay Ward, who is not affiliated with his father's former business, said Morris Communications approached the family about buying the property in 2004 and started formal discussions earlier this year.

He said his father has encouraged the dancers to seek employment at the remaining downtown clubs.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.