End appears near for landmark S. Jersey strip joint

File photo of the Fantasy Showbar and its enormous advertisements along the Black Horse Pike in Mount Ephraim before it became the Jersey Girls go-go joint in 2010. The site was long an uncomfortable landmark for Mount Ephraim, Camden County, N.J. But it may now become a Taco Bell.
File photo of the Fantasy Showbar and its enormous advertisements along the Black Horse Pike in Mount Ephraim before it became the Jersey Girls go-go joint in 2010. The site was long an uncomfortable landmark for Mount Ephraim, Camden County, N.J. But it may now become a Taco Bell. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff photographer)
Posted: September 29, 2012

Irritated local officials couldn't shut it down. Disgusted residents couldn't stop it. Even the Supreme Court had to step in.

But time, the economy and the Internet may finally have done what nothing else could: Bring the end of an infamous go-go joint in Mount Ephraim, Camden County.

The site of Jersey Girls, formerly the Fantasy Showbar, and a long-standing irritant on the Black Horse Pike, now appears likely to become a Taco Bell, pending a planning and zoning hearing Oct. 15.

The Fantasy Showbar opened in the 1970s on the site of a former Thom McCann shoe store, and smack in the midst of a heavily traveled commercial district with homes a block away.

Currently, Jersey Girls is situated with the Audubon Crossing Shopping Center shopping center on one side just across Newton Creek, and the Mount Ephraim Dodge dealership and a Wawa on the other side.

Tired of having the main drag through town marred by a go-go place, Mount Ephraim tried to shut down the Fantasy Showbar in 1981 by passing an ordinance prohibiting live entertainment in town.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court and cost the community $150,000 in legal fees. But Mount Ephraim lost, and the court held that the zoning ordinance was overly broad. The court ruled that the attempt to ban nudity through zoning was unconstitutional.

Over time, the Fantasy Showbar became even more garish landmark, with eye-popping signs advertising all-nude dancing.

In 2010, the Fantasy Showbar became the Jersey Girls go-go club and was completely renovated inside with a 40 foot runway, 3 stages, and 6 Plasma TVs. However, records show the property is still owned by the estate of James F. Schad in Cinnaminson.

An attempt to reach someone at Schad residence was unsuccessful because the line has been disconnected. And the phone number to the Jersey Girls club is not in service.

Locals began noticing a steep decline in the number of cars entering the go-go joint over the past several years. Customers appeared to have stopped to a trickle.

Locals aren't exactly sure why - economic downturn, changing tastes, or the anonymity the Internet offers those who might have otherwise travel to strip clubs.

Tara Martin, secretary for the Mount Ephraim Planning Board, said Winterstar Corp., of Conshohocken, has filed an application to build a Taco Bell with a drive-through at the site.

The site is already zoned commercial, and restaurants are a permitted use. But Winterstar may need approval for the drive-through because of traffic it could generate.

The sale of the property from the James Schad estate to Winterstar is contingent on the approval.

So residents should know within a few weeks if the Fantasy Showbar - which many considered a long is finally gone for good.

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