Topless coffee shop goes up in flames

By Calvin Palmer

A controversial topless coffee shop in Maine went up in flames early today just hours after the owner had talks with local officials about making the business more like a strip club.

The fire occurred around 1:00 a.m. at the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro. Investigators are sifting through the charred remains to establish the cause of the blaze.

Owner Donald Crabtree and six other people who lived on the premises escaped unharmed.

Crabtree refused to speculate whether the fire seemed suspicious, coming just hours after he appeared before the town’s planning board.

“I don’t even dare to say at this time,” he said.

Topless waiters and waitresses served coffee and doughnuts at the coffee shop. Crabtree was seeking to add a disc jockey, expand parking and extend the hours of operation.

Crabtree said he spent $277,000 buying and renovating the former motel. It was not insured.

When the coffee shop opened in February it caused a storm of protest by residents. A recent complaint involved one of the waitresses standing topless outside the premises. An ordinance was proposed to regulate nudity at local businesses.

The owner’s brother Paul Crabtree said: “”It’s sad to see people driving by and acting happy about it.”

Steve Cooper, of Vassalboro, had never been in the shop but said it was a shame the fire had put people out of work.

“I don’t think the business was doing any harm,” he said.

A waitress at the shop, Krista MacIntyre, said the job was the best she has ever had and hopes the business continues

“We should keep on going, get back up and make it an even bigger place,” she said.

Richard Flick estimated that 97 percent of Vassalboro’s 4,200 residents opposed the topless cafe. He hopes Crabtree does not rebuild.

Another Vassalboro resident, Sherry Perry, said: “I’m a believer and I’m a Christian and I don’t want this trash in my backyard. No good can come from it.”

Richard Flick, Dick Flick to his friends no doubt, and Sherry Perry? Are those their real names? They sound more like porn stars from the 1970s. Perhaps they could not stand the competition from the coffee shop.

When I used to report on this kind of story, I usually asked the fire chief for his thoughts on the possible cause of the blaze and would get some indication of whether it was suspicious or not. I am surprised this story contains no quote from a fire officer at the scene.

[Based on a report by newsday.com.]

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