JUST nine months after opening in a storm of controversy, Kilkenny's first and only lap-dancing club has quietly closed its doors, but a similarly-themed club has already sprung up in its place.
Whispers Sports Bar and Pole Dancing Club on Parliament Street closed for business late last month and the new Secrets Lap Dance Club has taken over the premises.
Secrets, billed as 'Kil-kenny's Newest Gentle-man's Club', opened for business with little fanfare last Friday night, October 31.
A large, pink sign declaring the new club to be 'Opening Soon in Kilkenny' is strung across the front of the building, obliterating any trace of the former Whispers name.
A spokesman for Secrets said the company had bought the lease for the club off Whispers and had already applied for, and been granted, a new operating licence.
"They weren't doing very well and we've got a bit more experience," the spokesman said.
Whispers co-owner, Dave Coughlan, declined to comment on the issue, but said it was not that straightforward.
"I'd rather not talk about it. I don't want to upset anyone else in Kilkenny," he said.
"But it's complicated. They're not entirely new owners."
Secrets operate two other lap-dancing clubs in Ireland - one in Cork, which has been running for more than six years, and one in Waterford, which opened about six months ago.
The new club in Kilkenny will initially open five nights a week, from Thursday to Monday, but the owners plan to increase this to seven nights.
Whispers opened to great uproar in January this year, after a stand-off with gardai and the Local Authorities over the granting of its licence.
The issue garnered massive attention around the country as many local councillors, including then-Mayor, Councillor Marie Fitzpatrick, and community members raised objections to the club, saying it objectified women and could fuel the local sex trade.
A group of protesters, including the Legion Of Mary, staged a protest outside the club every Friday night since it opened, leading Mr Coughlan to claim that the protesters were affecting his business. Six weeks after opening, the club scaled back operations from opening seven nights a week to five.
But in September, when the club applied for a new annual licence in the Licensing Court, no formal objections were raised and the club's owners succeeded in gaining a new licence.