Keithsburg, the new Sin City?
Keithsburg, IL is a very sleepy little river village on the Mississippi about 50 miles from the Quad Cities, southwest of Aledo and south of New Boston.
It was devastated by the 1993 flood, which all but destroyed the tiny town. Now it seems a Peoria businessman sees big things for the town, as in big ta-tas, evidently.
KEITHSBURG -- A little more than a year ago, Guy Brenkman was a very unpopular man in many parts of Keithsburg.Sounds like Mr. Brenkman found an out of the way town which is on the ropes and is pretty much attempting to create his own town, complete with titilating restaurant, motel, bank, and other businesses.
Last fall Mr. Brenkman, owner of FantasyLand in Peoria, suggested opening a lingerie shop and gentlemen's club at the former Lighthouse Restaurant. It would have been the only adult entertainment business in Mercer County.
News reports of the proposal caused a swarm of phone calls and walk-ins at city hall by people voicing displeasure with the city council for even considering a gentlemen's club. City officials yanked a presentation on the business from a council agenda, and the issue seemed to die away.
Now Mr. Brenkman's back with a proposal, under the name Keithsburg Properties LLC, to refurbish about 60 percent of the downtown.
Mayor James Stewart said Mr. Brenkman's interest in Keithsburg stems not only from a business standpoint, but because "he just liked Keithsburg and he thought it would be a good place to call home."
Now Mr. Brenkman wants to turn the former Lighthouse Restaurant into a bar and grill called "Bikinis." On his application for a liquor license, he said the restaurant will be similar to the national chain "Hooters." The north half of the former Lighthouse property will be his home.
The liquor license was approved earlier this year by the city.
But the plans don't stop there, according to city officials. Mr. Brenkman wants to turn buildings, which have been mostly vacant since the 1993 flood, into such businesses as a barber shop, a women's clothing store, a salon, a hardware and general merchandise store, a laundromat, an outdoor sporting goods store and possibly a branch office for a bank, and then lease them out.
He also bought the Keithsburg Motel, which he plans to keep open year-round with daily, weekly and monthly rates.
Mayor Stewart said community reaction to the plans has been mixed. Some support the plans, while others don't like the Bikinis bar idea -- or any idea from the man who wanted to bring in a strip club.
"I just tell them, 'If you don't want him to buy them, go and buy them yourself and refurbish them,'" Mayor Stewart said. "We need to get these off and running and build from there. Maybe things will start to be abuzz."
Mr. Brenkman didn't return calls seeking comment.
It could be he's planning to eventually create a little sin city, with strip clubs, restaurants, motels, and whatever else dovetails with selling sex and booze, right in Mercer County. Can gambling be far behind?
Mercer County is up against it financially as well, which might weaken their objections.
Maybe Keithsburg can re-invent itself in the image of the East Dubuque of old, where along about a mile of Sinsinawa Street, known as Sin Street, there was an unbroken string of stip clubs, bars, and motels down both sides of the dead end street. It thrived on the sin and booze business especially since it bordered Iowa where the drinking laws were quite a bit more restrictive.
In this respect, perhaps Mr. Brenkman is wanting to get things set up in anticipation of the proposed bridge over the river near Keithsburg.
It's just a happy coincidence that he found a dull, unattractive, largely ruined river town so attractive that he decided it would be a good place to live.