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Phony sign gets attention that Jimmy G's is for sale

| Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sharpsburg officials say there is no truth in the message on the former Jimmy G's restaurant marquee at 1822 Main St. — "Adult Entertainment Coming Soon XXX."

But building owner and restaurateur, James Guenther of Arnold, said there is at least a grain of truth to it.

Guenther closed his restaurant Jimmy G's in August after he declared bankruptcy. In an interview last year, Guenther said storm damage to his banquet hall and a financially tough year did in his business.

Now, as he is soon to emerge from bankruptcy, he's looking to sell his restaurant building on Main Street.

Among prospective buyers for the former Jimmy G's is a business interested in opening a gentlemen's club, according to Guenther.

The name "Jimmy G-Strings" has been floated, he said.

But no such deal has been reached, Guenther said. He is fielding interest from a number of potential buyers.

"I don't care what they do with it," Guenther said. "I just want to sell the building."

The borough received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from residents not only from Sharpsburg but surrounding communities upset with the prospect of a strip club in town.

Resident Carol Morrone of Main Street told council last night that she was disturbed by the sign.

"I don't appreciate the respect that Mr. G. shows this town," she said. "He has given our town a sore eye and a bad reputation."

Councilman Larry Stelitano said at the meeting that he met with Guenther earlier yesterday. "He's upset with the town." Stelitano said. "... He did it as a prank," he said of the marquee.

Guenther admits that he "punk'd" the town with the "coming soon" part of message that indicated he had reached a deal with a strip joint operator. (The television series "Punk'd" features practical jokes filmed by a hidden camera crew.)

Guenther said in a follow-up interview late Tuesday that it's unfortunate that he went out of business, however, "I don't blame the community for my misfortunes."

He said the sign was put up "to bring to the surface the fact that the building is available."

Guenther was upset that somebody took the message off his marquee on Monday.

"There was no permission given to anyone to take down those letters," he said. "They were my letters and my sign on the building. No one had permission."

Stelitano said at the council meeting that he took down the message on the marquee.

Guenther met with Rudzki and Stelitano on Tuesday to complain about the removal of his marquee's message.

As a result of the meeting, a new, less offensive message will be posted on the marquee and the borough will help market the former restaurant, according to Guenther and Rudzki.

"It was a cordial meeting, and we came to a compromise," Rudzki said.

The controversy about the sign has attracted new potential buyers, though.

"Now I have a church and a plumbing business among the pool of buyers," Guenther said.

He declined to give the building's sale price.

Additional Information:

'No strip' zone

Sign or no sign, the former Jimmy G's restaurant site is not zoned for adult entertainment, nor have Sharpsburg officials received any request to consider allowing adult entertainment at the site, according to police Chief Leo Rudzki and Borough Secretary Ron Borczyk.

'The business mentioned on the sign is strictly prohibited by ordinance,' Borczyk said.

The Jimmy G's building is in a residential area that is not zoned for adult entertainment, he said.

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