Former Shoreline strip club to reopen as church

SHORELINE, Wash. -- Can a building's soul be reborn?

Members of the Bethany Community Church hope so, God willing. The non-denominational church has taken out a lease on what was Sugars, the strip club that was a target for police and FBI stings for years until it was shut down in 2010. It was run by adult entertainment mogul and convicted felon Frank Colurcio Sr and his son Frank Jr.

The club was sold at auction in 2011 to a Seattle area family and sat vacant and intact just as it appeared when authorities seized the property with its mirrored walls, elevated stage and bright red carpeting. Bethany Community Church had been looking a location to expand its outreach ministry in North Seattle and Shoreline areas and learned the building on North Aurora Avenue was available for a lease.

"When our children's director actually suggested this place, we just laughed," says Scott Sund, a pastor at Bethany Community Church. "We said there's no way, a church can't move into an old strip club."

But after prayerful consideration and a nagging spirit that kept telling Sund and his staff "this is the place," the church leadership went forward with five year lease with options to renew. Sund says the resurrection of the strip club began the day before Easter when some members gathered inside.

"We prayed and then we sang and you talk about a building being reborn and we felt like it started right then," says Sund. The following week, members of the church showed up and started removing all signs of the building being a strip club.

The church is not immune to acts of God. In March, its main sanctuary was hit by lighting that blew a hole in the roof. Fortunately, nobody inside was hurt. The symbolism of lightning hitting the church didn't go unnoticed at the time. The symbolism is not going unnoticed again as the church remakes the strip club -- a former haven for prostitution, say authorities -- into a 100-seat worship center with multipurpose rooms and a haven for spiritual renewal. It's all part of Bethany's story now.

"We get to step into this part of the story right now and say this building is going to be a place of hope for North Aurora," says Sund. "We are taking out the old and bringing light to the neighborhood."

The strip club should reopen as a church in the fall.