Strip joint in Mound ruffling residents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 24, 2000

Tommy Cantin stands in his new bar, The Long Branch Saloon, on Highway 80 near Mound. The grand opening of the topless club is set for tonight amid objections from neighbors. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

MOUND The Long Branch Saloon is to strip to a g-string and pasties here tonight despite protests from area residents.

The Madison Parish Policy Jury was presented with a petition signed by 78 Hunter Heights subdivision residents opposed to the dance hall on U.S. 80 between Delta and Mound, just a few minutes from Vicksburg. Petitioners say the club will strip the small community of its dignity.

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“We’ve got a strip-tease bar going in, and we’ve got a subdivision right behind it,” homeowner Pat Ramsaur said.

The 35-year Mound resident said the club would bring problems to a community already sprinkled with bars. She said patrons at Daiquiri World, next door to Long Branch, are already enough of an irritation every weekend and that a strip club will only bring more trouble.

“Just about the biggest customers at these bars are kids from Vicksburg,” Ramsaur said.

Long Branch Saloon owner Tommy Cantin is also the owner of The World in Delta. He opened the doors at the strip club last Monday and said most of his customers are from the Vicksburg area, but they are good customers.

“It’s just a comfortable place to have a drink and there’s some exotic dancing,” Cantin said. “Who cares where the money comes from?”

Although Elizabeth Simms, a seven-year resident in Mound, said she has had no problems from the club since it opened last week, but she still opposes a strip club in the neighborhood.

“We feel like it is going to bring down our property values,” Simms said. “We just don’t feel it is morally right.”

She also said she is worried about the effect on her four children ages 5 to 16. Simms’ 16-year-old son will be driving soon and she said she is concerned about his driving on the road with drunken drivers leaving the bar.

“And the church, they didn’t have to put it next to the church,” She said. “It’s like shoving it in their face.”

Long Branch is about 100 yards from Mound Baptist Church, which rebuilt this year after being burned in an arson fire in 1998.

The club was a country and western bar under the same name for about 10 years, but when Cantin bought it three months ago he said he couldn’t make it profitable.

To pay the bills, he has added a stage, two cages, neon lights and exotic dancers. When on stage, the dancers strip down to a g-string and pasties in compliance with Louisiana law. They also dress again before leaving the stage, Cantin said.

He said the protesters are simply making a mountain out of a mole hill.

“We just don’t want it,” Ramsaur said. “We just don’t want strippers here.”

In Mississippi, Claiborne and Hinds counties have had exotic dance clubs. Vicksburg and Warren County have comprehensive ordinances that do not allow sales of alcoholic beverages in businesses that offer near-nude dancing.