SMYRNA — Once again, the co-owner of Delaware’s only topless dancer tavern hopes to resume business by the upcoming NASCAR weekend of May 29-31.
After an arson fire destroyed the Fairways Inn Topless Club on July 4, 2013, Willis Duckery initially thought the landmark venue U.S. 13 between Smyrna and Cheswold would be rebuilt less than three months after the blaze, ready for extra business that comes with three days of auto racing at Dover International Speedway.
Clearly, the process didn’t go that quickly and has reached nearly two years in the making. A roughly $1 million dollar construction project — $400,000 funded by insurance, $600,000 from ownership, Mr. Duckery said — and the code requirements that come with it can bring a series of complications.
“No way did I think it would ever take this long,” Mr. Duckery said on Tuesday. “If you’d ever told me it would take almost two years I would have thought it wasn’t possible.”
This time, however, the projected return seems far more likely. There already are white-lined V.I.P. parking spots marked in front of the tavern, a large sign complete with an attention-getting young woman’s face is erected, and most of the 4,300 square feet inside is ready for use.
An order of bar furniture is yet to be delivered, and some electrical work remains outside.
The project is so far along that recently installed outdoor lighting popped on automatically at night and had would-be customers pulling into the parking lot ready for some entertainment, Mr. Duckery said.
Alas, it wasn’t to be, at least not yet, according to the co-owner. Tipping the dancers and everything else that comes with a night at the Fairways Inn will have to wait just a few weeks more if the schedule holds.
As has been the case for much of nearly the last two years, Mr. Duckery is asked constantly about a re-opening. In fact, the interest was what spurred him to keep pushing forward with the rebuild even when obstacles arose in the construction process.
“I can’t go anywhere without everyone asking when it will open again,” Mr. Duckery said. “I get messages all the time from people wanting to know. So many people have been showing support for it that I decided to bring it back.”
There will be no easy opening followed by a grander event to celebrate a return to business, Mr. Duckery said. He figures that news of an opening quickly will fill the tavern with a capacity of 300 folks, expanded from the 200 in the previous establishment.
Quite happy with outcome
Mr. Duckery said the blaze made him revamp the entire building and said he’s, “quite happy with the outcome” of the new setting.
Precaution has been taken to decrease fire risk in the future — previous wood rafters and beams are now steel and brick, a sprinkler system is installed, and there’s an 8,000-gallon water tank and fire hydrants available in case of emergency.
A 16-foot ceiling is overhead, a welcome change from the previous one that the co-owner said he could stand to change a light bulb. There’s also more usable space in the upstairs level, along with double doors for entry and exit.
As before, Mr. Duckery said plenty of security will be provided, especially on the outside where no congregating to hang around is allowed because, “that’s where most trouble usually starts,” Mr. Duckery said.
The alleged arsonist or arsonists never have been identified or taken into custody and Mr. Duckery said, “those guys are probably out of the country by now.”
When asked for a status report on Tuesday, the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s office said through a spokesman, “We have no more additional information. It remains an open investigation.”