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Staff photo by Don Himsel Tim Barry, left, and Jason Gagnon of First Sign change the sign outside of Mark's Showplace Wednesday, January 20, 2010.
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Strip club gets upgrade – with strings attached

BEDFORD – New Hampshire’s first and only strip club has changed hands.

Mark’s Showplace, at 390 S. River Road, today officially became The Gold Club restaurant and gentlemen’s club, a chain based in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The club, about a quarter mile from the Merrimack line in an industrial zone, got a face lift in preparation for tonight’s grand opening, but the entertainment remains the same, according to Michael Rose, The Gold Club’s vice president and chief operating officer.

Dancers at Mark’s wore g-strings and pasties to get around the law, and those at The Gold Club will have to do the same. Bedford’s ordinance banning nudity still applies.

Mark’s Showplace created big waves when it announced plans to move into this upscale bedroom community in 1999. The town got a temporary restraining order to prevent the club’s opening but eventually had to allow it after Police Chief David Bailey determined that partial nudity did not violate the ordinance.

This time around, according to Rose, 38, things weren’t so difficult.

“The town has been very welcoming to us, actually,” he said.

There is, however, one issue that could present a problem. Town law prohibits adult entertainment venues and other establishments that serve alcohol from staying open past 1 a.m. The Gold Club stays open until 2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The club does not plan to serve liquor past the legal cutoff of 1 a.m., Rose said. On the weekends, it will operate in the early-morning hours as “Club Insomnia,” featuring a “Legs & Eggs” buffet beginning at 2 a.m.

Bailey, the police chief, could not be reached for comment because he is on vacation this week.

Town Manager Russ Marcoux said he can’t speculate on whether the hours or any procedures at the new club violate town law. The police chief has asked the new owners to put the changes in writing, and those will be reviewed when they’re submitted, Marcoux said.

“If there is a problem, I’ll assure you, we will address it,” he said.

Marcoux said the town never had any problems with Mark’s Showplace while it was in business.

“They’ve always been, believe it or not, a good neighbor in this town,” Marcoux said.

The Gold Club will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The club has multiple stages, a bar, VIP rooms and a mini-nightclub that can be booked for private parties. Renovations included new paint, carpets, furniture, lighting and sound and video equipment. The grand opening starts at 6 tonight.

The club has technically been under The Gold Club’s ownership since Dec. 14, according to day Manager Mike Pombrio, 24, but the Mark’s Showplace name was intentionally left in place prior to the grand opening.

On Wednesday afternoon, two men hoisted in a cherry-picker outside were changing the sign. Inside, a handful of customers milled about. A single dancer was on stage, still costumed.

The main room is dark with multicolored lights mounted to the ceiling. There’s a bar along the left wall and a big center stage surrounded by small round tables with zebra-patterned chairs.

Mark’s Showplace was modeled after a club by the same name in Portland, Maine. Owner Mark Deane sold the Portland club, which was later renamed, about 20 years ago. About a decade later, he opened the Bedford location.

“I felt there was a need, and there wasn’t one in the area,” said Deane said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Deane, 56, who lives in Portland, sold the Bedford club about a year ago to spend more time with his wife, who had terminal cancer, he said. The new owners then sold it to The Gold Club.

The name of the most recent past owner is unknown, as is the reason for selling.

Deane said business at the club was good. He recalled having a great relationship with most people in town after the initial firestorm died down.

“It was a great business. The people were great,” Deane said. “Their concerns were addressed, and I had a great relationship with everyone from the police chief to the fire chief. Every town official.”

Ashley Smith can be reached at 594-6446 or