‘Cannabis with a twist’: New vision shared for topless pot dispensary at Club Castaway

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-17-2023 5:10 PM

WHATELY — While they have an expected reopening date within the next 60 days, Club Castaway’s owners presented a novel plan for the business’ future that would remove dancing and alcohol but maintain nudity.

Franklin County’s only strip club is expected to reopen for the first time since March 2020 within the next two months, and owners Nick Spagnola and Julius Sokol appeared before the Select Board Thursday to share that their long-term plan over the next year is to transition their business into what could possibly be the nation’s first-ever topless pot dispensary.

“We’re leaning toward cannabis with a twist. … There are a lot of dispensaries open and you need a niche to be successful,” Spagnola said. “Castaways as a strip club would be no more.”

Spagnola and Sokol operated Club Castaway, at 226 State Road, for only a few months before the state issued an emergency order to close nonessential businesses in March 2020. The business has yet to reopen. A group of prospective new owners came before the Select Board in early 2022, but withdrew their application in April of that year.

Club Castaway’s adult entertainment and alcohol licenses are still active, clearing the way for the business to open its doors. In November, the business posted on Facebook seeking bartenders and a club manager.

A shift to a cannabis dispensary — with or without clothes — will require several steps before the business can reshape itself.

Spagnola said he and Sokol have agreed to terms to purchase Shine Diamond LLC, a marijuana dispensary permitted to open at 85 State Road. To start, the business partners need to file a change of location request with the state Cannabis Control Commission. If approved (the state can also impose additional conditions on a business in this process), Club Castaway would need to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals because its building use is changing, which requires a special permit, according to Town Administrator Brian Domina.

Sokol, who has CCC licenses for dispensaries in eastern Massachusetts, and Spagnola, said they would request to amend their adult entertainment license to remove dancing and have topless service only. They would also remove their alcohol license.

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“We do have some experience on the cannabis side and some on the nudity side,” Spagnola said, stating they could bring “cannabis tourism” to town. “We want to replace this night club scene and alcohol with something that is harmless in comparison.”

Select Board member Julianna Waggoner, agreeing that removing alcohol and dancing from the business could make it a quieter environment, inquired about who would be topless in the store.

“It could certainly be a little mellower,” Waggoner said. “I do have to ask, who is going to be topless?”

Her question was unanswered, but Spagnola said they’ve never had trouble finding employees to work with them and they “have a good track record” with the town.

“It may surprise you, we’ve never had a shortage of employees who wanted to work at Castaways,” Spagnola said, adding he thinks some former employees might be on board to rejoin them. “We’re confident we could create a protocol for a safe working environment.”

Spagnola said their discussion Thursday was to inform the town they plan to reopen as a strip club in the near future, while also sharing their new vision for Club Castaway.

Select Board Chair Joyce Palmer-Fortune thanked Spagnola and Sokol for updating the town on their business plans and noted there are “a lot of legal questions” ahead of them. Fellow Select Board member Fred Baron said they could revisit all the requirements when “we have firmer plans” to discuss.

“Mission accomplished, you’ve updated us on what your plans are,” Palmer-Fortune said, adding she has no initial opinion on their ideas. “We’re not really the last word on this anyway.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.]]>