SUMMERVILLE --Tyrone Faulkner feels like he's been had.
No one objected back in September when he applied for a business license and a zoning permit to open Femme Fatale.
He operated the "bikini bar" for three months in an Oakbrook suburb shopping center before police began writing him up for noise problems, then launched an undercover investigation to see if the bikini girls and stage dancers were illicitly stripping for customers.
He didn't run into trouble until more cars started showing up in his parking lot, he said.
"I went by all the guidelines," he said.
On the night in February when undercover Dorchester County Sheriff's deputies showed up with a hidden video camera, they asked five of the dancers and bikini girls a total of 21 times to show them something more, Faulkner said.
In other words, more than the skimpy bikinis already revealed.
Twenty-one times, the women told them they couldn't.
"I think they are trying to set us up. Why do that if (the dancers) are already telling you they can't do it? If it's a bikini club, you don't have any problem. If it's a strip club, you don't have to find anything. You come in and they take it off," he said.
When Faulkner applied for his zoning license, he told zoning officials he wanted to open a "bikini bar" and characterized it as a "Hooters-type restaurant." But the Femme Fatale -- complete with dancing pole, throbbing music, low lighting and recessed seating -- was a departure from the supermarket, pizza and music store businesses that have long operated in the sleepy Oakbrook bedroom community. The late-night noise drew complaints from the subdivision behind the club.
Neighbors and county officials say the Oakbrook commercial hub is supposed to be an area of family-type businesses.
Late last year, the sheriff's department cracked down countywide on a voluntary 2 a.m. closing guideline to curtail noise, fights and alcohol-related problems at late-night clubs. After repeated late-night police calls to tavern parking lots, the situation came to a head during a rowdy New Year's Eve, and Dorchester County Council in January made the 2 a.m. closing a law.
Femme Fatale was first written up in early December and has been written up 17 times since, including for a loud-noise violation as recently as March 28.
The undercover investigation didn't produce criminal charges, but deputies turned over the February video to county zoning officials. The club's owners are due in court April 28 on a zoning violation charge, essentially a finding from the video and deputies that the skimpy bikinis exposed too much flesh during up-close dances.
The owners face a maximum $200 fine or 30 days in jail per violation.
They also might face eviction.
The shopping center owners have asked the county for the reports that led to the zoning charge. Attorney Brian Hellman said the owners were waiting to see the outcome of the hearing before making any decisions.
"My landlord has no problem with me if the county doesn't have a problem with me," Faulkner said.
Sheriff's officials say the effort isn't an attempt to close the club; they're responding to the complaints. Maj. John Garrison conceded the owners might be better off in a more industrial zoning area that doesn't have the same restrictions.
"If we get noise complaints, we're going to respond to them. But in a more industrial area, you're going to get fewer complaints," Garrison said.
Faulkner, 28, doesn't see why complaints have continued. He said he has cut down the music volume and is planning to install double doors to the rear dressing rooms that would dampen sound more. He points out that the center also has a night club next door, a tattoo parlor, a pawn shop and an ABC store.
He's closed now on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. After the February citation, he covered up the dancers and bikini girls better, he said.
"All the county has to do is tell me what they want me to do and it gets done," he said. He dismissed the March 28 noise citation as mistaken. County officials measured his noise levels and they are within limits, he said.
He doesn't want to move. The big parking lot, the heavy traffic at the Dorchester-Trolley roads intersection makes it "a perfect, prime-time location," he said.
"I think what it was, the girls were maybe a little too skimpy," he said. "I'm not doing anything wrong."
On April 28, the court weighs in.