ZILLAH — Known for its small-town appeal and outlying wine country, this city could get a new image if a local casino owner gets his way: topless women and thongs.

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ZILLAH — Known for its small-town appeal and outlying wine country, this city could get a new image if a local casino owner gets his way: topless women and thongs.

Jamie Muffett, owner of Tuscan Sands Casino located in a high-visibility site between Interstate 82 and Vintage Valley Parkway, wants to put a stage in his casino where exotic dancers would perform.

Muffett, 32, says his business has struggled since opening about six months ago, and that introducing a strip club would help bolster business. He described it as a “gentlemen’s club,” and said it would comply with state laws governing such operations. According to state law, he would have to give up his liquor license, something he said he’s happy to do.

But before that could happen, he needs to get the OK from the city Planning Commission because his business is within 600 feet of city-owned property.

Anyone seeking an adult entertainment business license for a site within 600 feet of a school, church or city property first has to get permission from those entities.

But a public outcry in this normally quiet town of 2,660 residents could cause his idea to fold.

City Hall has gotten several calls protesting the idea since a legal notice about it was published in a local newspaper last week.

“We’ve received several phone calls and a lot of people have come to the counter asking about it,” said City Clerk Sharon Bounds. “We’ve never even had anyone apply for the license before.”

In fact, residents are already working on a petition against such a prospect.

Lisa Bower, a pastor of Valley Covenant Community Church, and her husband Matt have been collecting signatures since learning of the proposal.

“We’re just putting the word out because this is not something we want in or around Zillah,” Matt Bower said.

“It’ll most likely bring in people who prey on that kind of stuff,” added Lisa. “We don’t need that in the Valley.”

Tinda East, a lifelong Zillah resident who just opened up a floral shop next to the post office two weeks ago, said she was especially concerned because the casino is right next to the Zillah exit off Interstate 82.

“I don’t want people to drive by on the freeway and point to our town and say, ‘Hey, that’s where the adult entertainment is,”” she said. “We’re trying to make ourselves into a Tuscan wine town and a strip club doesn’t fit in with that.”

Muffett said the opposition is mostly based on a lack of understanding of his plans, and he plans to start a petition of his own.

“What’s really sad is the stigma,” he said. “It brings in more money not just for us, but for other businesses.”

He said there would be nothing outside of the building promoting the strip club, that the entertainment would be confined to one stage, and dancers would not be allowed to leave the stage topless. He also said there would be plenty of security.

“It’s not sleazy, it’s not prostitution,” he said. “It’s not going to bring any other clientele than a bar would bring.”