Church faces strip club in battle for prime downtown property

HOUSTON -- Who do you think will win in a financial battle between a church and a strip club? The church or the strip club?

The answer might surprise you.

The battle has been going on for years between the owner of Treasures Strip Club and Pastor Chris Seay's Ecclesia Church.

The battleground is the old Meridian nightclub on the fringe of downtown right across from the George R. Brown Convention Center.

"To be able to worship and have this view of the city?" --That is what Pastor Seay says he has thought every time he has been inside.

"I sat in here the whole time and thought: Man this would be a great church," Pastor Seay remembered.

The problem was others had a different use in mind, about as far from a church as you can be.

Walking inside the now empty space Pastor Seay notes the metal poles in the middle of the room.

"They seem like they are perfectly suited for our competitors," he said.

The owners of Treasures originally won the bankruptcy auction to buy the property, but when it came time for cash, they couldn't cut it and the building went to the second highest bidder.

"God just winks at you every now and then," said Pastor Seay.

Two years after that auction, this week that new owner chose Ecclesia Church over an offer from the strip club to buy the building.

Pastor Seay and his congregation of more than 3000 are excited.

"It is not the reason we are buying this building -- to keep a strip club out. Our church is growing and expanding and we need room, but it is a pretty great bonus," he said.

They plan on gutting the space inside, and the outside probably needs a new look.

"Basically this room. Minus the bars. Unless we need them for Communion. I don't know," he said.

The church has plenty of experience. Take its current space for example, 1300 people will fill it for services on Sunday, but two years ago it was a gutted rotting warehouse.

The building was a paper company that had been abandoned on the other side of downtown.

It is now building up a sketchy neighborhood and even has a 7 day a week coffee shop inside.

Church members are ready for the new challenge.

"I don't believe in coincidences. I believe that there are burning bushes everywhere if you have eyes to see it," said Sara Dejong.

"I love our city. I think that light is often winning. We think that this is one of those cases where God has worked it out," said Pastor Seay who is clearly ready to get the project moving. "We haven't figured out a use for the disco ball yet."

The poles are definitely out.


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