The proposal to open Mermaid Dive Bar in what was Shady’s restaurant and bar on Pass Road was awash with rumor, but the neighbors weren’t any more enthusiastic about it once they heard the true plans.
After a hearing lasting more than 90 minutes, the Biloxi Planning Commission voted 8-2 with one abstention to deny a conditional use permit based on the neighbors’ complaints about noise, parking and the distance to Amazing Grace Baptist Church and residential neighborhoods.
“I think it’s a great idea. Wrong location,” said Commissioner David Stanovich, shaking his head.
Steven Delahousey and Steve King voted against denial and David Washer abstained. The application for conditional use now goes to the Biloxi Council for a vote.
Katheryne Shafer has owned the restaurant at 1795/1797 Pass Road since 2003. She said before the meeting she plans to “freshen it up, reopen it, do something fun.”
Those plans include waitresses dressed as mermaids, with corset tops and leggings or shorts in fabric that resembles fish scales.
During three nightly shows, one or two of the mermaids would appear to be weak from being out of the water for too long, she said, and would don fins and tails before frolicking in a tub of water.
“The show is very, very PG,” said Brian Mullins, who would be director of operations.
“You’ll be able to feed the mermaids,” he said, giving the mermaids fish-shaped crackers and have a picture taken with a mermaid.
“Our brand is mermaid and our goal is fun and excitement,” he said.
The menu also would have a mermaid theme with Sea Goddess Salad, seafood, sandwiches, wings and tacos.
Shafer said she has a similar restaurant and nightclub in Panama City Beach, Florida, that is very successful.
“We think it will be a great addition to Biloxi, which is known for its entertainment and fun,” she said.
Shafer shared with the Planning Commission a flyer being passed around the neighborhood that she was opening a gentlemen’s club.
“We’re not nor are we trying to be” a gentlemen’s club, she said, and that area of the city isn’t zoned for that type of entertainment.
While the midnight show might be more adult oriented, she said, “there will be no nudity.” That would jeopardize her liquor license, she said.
Neighbors described the problems they said they had with Shady’s restaurant and Shafer over the years.
Gary Taylor presented a petition with 61 signatures of people who oppose the Mermaid bar. He said they really don’t object to the business.
“What we object to is it’s in the middle of the neighborhood,” he said, and will have a “tremendous impact” on residents, the church and other local businesses.
Homes are located across the street and behind the restaurant and military housing is nearby.
They described finding patrons of the bar passed out behind the wheel of cars parked near their homes and in the church parking lot, hearing loud music and people driving under the influence through their neighborhoods.
“There are other places for her business,” said Robert Simpson, who has lived in that area for 27 years. “It is very unwelcome in our neighborhood.”
Michael Cavanaugh, Shafer’s attorney, said the problems they described with parking and bars near residences are found throughout Biloxi.
Except for the entertainment, he said, Shafer could reopen the restaurant and bar tomorrow.