A local strip club owner who was denied an operating permit by the Nueces County Sheriff's Department won an appeal last week to county leaders.
Nueces County Commissioners emerged from a lengthy executive session May 14 after discussing the appeal, which was filed in April by 57-year-old Juan Vela of Corpus Christi.
Vela is the owner of a nude studio, Reveal It, on Up River Road. The establishment was previously known as Tuxedos and has been at that location for nearly eight years, Vela said.
Vela said during a Commissioners Court meeting last month that he had applied for a permit about four years ago, when then-Sheriff Larry Olivarez was in charge. But he claims he never heard anything about the status of his application.
"I never got the permit," Vela said, adding that he inquired to Olivarez constantly, but never received an answer.
"I've been operating and officers have been coming into my place yearly to make sure everything's OK."
When Olivarez left the sheriff's department to run for Nueces County judge, a race he would end up losing to current County Judge Loyd Neal, a new administration was eventually put in place when Jim Kaelin took over the sheriff's department.
Vela said he assumed the current administration would be able to provide him with answers to his permit status, but said he wasn't.
"This would be his second permit that he would issue (to me) and he hasn't done it," Vela said last month.
After applying for the permit in November, the sheriff is required to give an answer of denial or approval within 30 days of receiving the application. Vela said he did not receive an answer until about five months later.
In a letter dated April 3, Kaelin told Vela: "I do not have the necessary manpower to regulate this type of business. Without the officers to effectively regulate, I cannot provide the supervision as required by law."
Kaelin then denied Vela's request for a permit, a decision that Vela appealed to the Commissioners Court about two weeks later. His business had to be shut down, as well.
"I frankly don't see (the reason) there," Vela said. "(Lack of manpower) is not a reason provided in the ordinance."
The business operates along an area known as "Refinery Road," because of the amount of refineries that are in proximity. There are also no schools within a few miles of the establishment, Vela said.
County Attorney Laura Garza Jimenez said Monday that the reason given by Kaelin for the denial was not a valid reason listed anywhere in the ordinance. As such, the county faced the possibility of a lawsuit if they held up the denial.
"If they were to not follow the ordinance, he's got a right to file with District Court," Jimenez said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz, who voted in favor of overturning Kaelin's denial, said the decision may not be popular among residents in the business's part of Nueces County, but the owner does have rights that must be considered.
"(The city) has been trying for years to get these businesses out," Ortiz said. "But, they're here. There's only so much a governing body can do."
Neal and Precinct 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria voted in favor of Vela's appeal, while commissioners Peggy Banales and Chuck Cazalas voted against it.