After more than three decades in business, Santa Fe’s only strip club has seen its last pole dance.
Cheeks, a topless bar on Cerrillos Road that turned into a local institution after it opened in the late 1980s, quietly closed its doors two weeks ago.
All that remains at the company is a sign facing Cerrillos that reads, “Thank you Santa Fe, especially our customers and friends.”
Owner Elmo Montoya has not returned any messages seeking comment on the closure.
A woman who danced at the club in 2007, under the stage name “Paige”, said she was saddened by its closure. When she first heard the news, she couldn’t believe it.
“And then I tried to continue what I thought was the last day – Friday [Dec. 17] – and they said it was a private party and they weren’t allowing anyone in. So I knew it was true, ”she said. “I wanted to say my last goodbyes.
She visited the club about a month ago, the 38-year-old said, but did not know any of the dancers who were working at the time.
“There’s a certain nostalgia there,” she says. “… It was the only strip club we had. It was a local meeting place. I just feel like the world is turning into a giant corporation, so I’m sad to see it go.
She noted that Cheeks cannot be replaced with a new strip club.
It was acquired in a city ordinance approved in 2000 that strictly limits adult entertainment businesses, from X-rated theaters and bookstores to hourly rental motels and clubs featuring topless dancers. The order, prompted by an adviser’s concerns about a never-to-be-seen topless maid service project, bans such businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, restaurants, grounds playgrounds, parks, daycares, churches and libraries.
Cheeks can be found near several restaurants in the busy business corridor of Cerrillos Road.
Paige acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic and other factors have likely taken their toll on the club.
“I think the biggest impact is that people don’t have enough money to go to these kinds of places,” she said. “It’s expensive – you pay a door fee, for the alcohol, for the dances.” With people strapped for cash with COVID, this is having an impact. “
In a 2009 interview with the Santa Fe reporter, Montoya, the club owner, called Cheeks a men’s club.
“I don’t really like people calling it a strip club because the women here are artists,” he said at the time. “They are not strippers. The strippers, I think, ended in the 70s.
Montoya’s son Clayton reflected on Cheeks shutting down on Facebook.
“My God, I love this bar,” he wrote on Dec. 18 in an article that included a photo of more than a dozen scantily clad dancers with their backs to the camera.
“I don’t want to accept that tomorrow is the last day at Cheeks Santa Fe,” added Clayton Montoya. “Thanks everyone for the support. “
He did not return a message requesting comment.
The business, as well as the adjacent Arcade News, an adult entertainment store, is listed for rental or “build custom” by Pegasus Retail, based in Albuquerque.
“We don’t know anything,” said an Arcade News employee, who remains open for business, in a brief interview.
Anthony Johnson, president of Pegasus Group LLC, declined to provide information on Cheeks or the future of the property.
“We are under a confidentiality agreement, so we cannot discuss what is going on there,” he said. “It will become a public record, of course. “
The property is listed on the Pegasus website as 1.84 acres with approximately 230 feet of “frontage” along Cerrillos, which she calls “the city’s main commercial thoroughfare.”
The listing indicates that the property has “excellent visibility” and is located in an established and growing commercial area and the market is tight.
“This is one of the only pad sites available on Cerrillos Road,” according to the listing, which also states that a drive-thru is allowed on the property.
While Cheeks had a pretty dingy reputation, it was also an establishment that many Santa Feans visited at least once.
In the 2009 interview, Elmo Montoya said that Cheeks was a bar similar to the waterhole featured on the long-running TV show. Cheers.
“We know a lot of our customers, probably 75%, by first name,” he said at the time. “We have tourists from all over the country coming. It’s just a place to relax without the worry of fights. We have the fewest fights, I think, of any bar here in Santa Fe. ”
A fight in 2011 then pushed Cheeks to the brink of closure.
A man gunned down outside the club filed a personal injury complaint against Elmo Montoya and three of his companies in 2014. The victim said that one of the club’s employees knew the shooter was likely to pull a gun from his gun. vehicle and Montoya should have known there was potential for client-to-client violence as the police had been called to the club more than 100 times in the 10 years leading up to the shooting.
The parties reached a settlement of $ 437,000 in 2016. While the club’s insurance company paid $ 200,000, Elmo Montoya had to pay the remaining $ 237,000, which he was supposed to pay in March 2017, but did not. According to the settlement agreement, Montoya’s promise to pay was secured by a mortgage on the club and a security on the club’s liquor license, putting the club’s future in jeopardy.
Rick Sandoval, the lawyer for the shooting victim, did not return a message seeking comment. But Roger Prucino, then a private lawyer who represented Montoya, said he believed the terms of the deal had been honored.
“To the best of my knowledge, every term of this settlement agreement has been met,” said Prucino, who now works for the Santa Fe County District Attorney’s office.
Editor-in-chief Robert Nott contributed to this report.