Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Southern Exposure greets passers-by on State Street in Murray, with the Intermountain Healthcare complex looming behind it.

MURRAY — Southern Exposure was ultimately stripped of its lease on property near Intermountain Healthcare's hospital complex Friday when the Utah Supreme Court ruled in favor of the medical facility.

The justices ended a 10-year battle with their ruling, which upheld Intermountain's right to evict the gentleman's club after it missed a rent payment in 1998.

"It's been going on for far too long," said Intermountain spokesman Jess Gomez. "It really is a landlord-tenant issue. (The ruling) reaffirms the rights of property owners."

The dispute began when Intermountain purchased property near 5400 S. State in Murray to build its Intermountain Medical Center. The area had been home to several small businesses, but most relocated with the help of the medical corporation.

Southern Exposure, too, was offered relocation money.

But the club, which earns about $600,000 annually from its Murray operation, was loath to leave. Its owners wanted to stay in Murray, but very few places in the city had zoning that allowed for liquor and nude dancing.

The parties reluctantly worked together for four years until, in the spring of 1998, the strip club missed a rent payment and was late on another.

The lapses gave Intermountain the right to force the club out, according to decisions of two district court judges and, now, Utah's highest court.

While the litigation moved through the courts, the hospital was built and Southern Exposure was allowed to continue operations. Its glitzy, blinking lights greet hospital guests near the State Street entrance to the manicured health-care campus.

Intermountain plans to evict the gaudy bar and demolish its dilapidated structure but doesn't have a timeline in place yet, Gomez said. The medical corporation will not help the strip club with relocation costs.

Neither the owner of the club nor his attorneys returned calls Friday, but Southern Exposure may have foreseen the Supreme Court decision.

About a year ago, the company acquired a South Salt Lake bar called Pleasures, at 3420 S. State. The property was purchased under the name State Street Inc., according to the city business licensing office.

The building was remodeled into a new Southern Exposure, complete with dancing and a liquor license. Southern Exposure also operates a club, Northern Exposure, near 1700 N. 300 West in Salt Lake City.

The case wasn't a total loss for the strip club owners. Supreme Court justices overturned a district court ruling requiring the club to pay Intermountain legal fees, which totaled $300,000. Intermountain had contended it was owed the fees under a clause in the lease. The justices decided the hospital couldn't terminate the lease while simultaneously using its clauses for legal arguments.

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