Posted Online: July 10, 2007, 12:00 am

Brenkman to Keithsburg: I'm outta here!

Comment on this story

By Ben Botkin, botkin@qconline.com

Photo: Jason Rodriguez
Guy Brenkman

KEITHSBURG -- Guy Brenkman is done with Keithsburg.

Mr. Brenkman made headlines last year when he opened up Bikini's Bar and Grill in Keithsburg, an establishment with bikini-clad dancers that sparked a large public outcry. After closing down Bikini's in August, Mr. Brenkman, a retired railroad businessman, continued to show an interest in Keithsburg and putting businesses in its downtown.

Now, he has about a dozen buildings in Keithsburg that are for sale, including his house and vacant downtown real estate.

He's also scrapped plans for investing anything else into Keithsburg, which included an application to the federal government seeking to rebuild a railroad bridge that crossed the Mississippi River from Iowa into Keithsburg.

'It goes beyond not getting a fair shake,' Mr. Brenkman said in an interview. 'I was used. I was victimized.'

In a lengthy letter to The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, Mr. Brenkman said Keithsburg was a negative experience. He said he invested more than $1 million into Keithsburg.

'Everything went fine while we were spending all that money and creating good things for Keithsburg,' Mr. Brenkman wrote. 'Then as soon as we were deeply committed the jealousy, greed and true color of the officials of the city, many of the citizens of Keithsburg, and the same people that had lured us there changed. All of a sudden we were called outsiders trying to take over the town, mobsters, strip club owners, drug dealers and all kinds of vermin and scum.'

In an interview, Mr. Brenkman said that the arrest of his fiancee, Sherri Bauman, played a role in his final decision about pulling out of Keithsburg. He now lives in Peoria.

Ms. Bauman, 42, pleaded guilty in June to a public indecency charge and received a $750 fine and one year of court supervision for dancing nude on May 16, according to court documents.

In his letter, Mr. Brenkman said an alderman called police and described the arrest as a 'trumped up ruse and a political assassination.'

But other people complained about noise because the incident was attracting the attention of barge crews that sounded their horns, said Mercer County Sheriff Tom Thompson and Keithsburg Ald. Linda O'Brien.

'There were numerous complaints to the police department about the barge horns honking,' Ms. O'Brien said.

Sheriff Thompson stressed that politics were not involved, just enforcement of the law.

Mr. Brenkman downplayed the misdemeanor, saying it was done from their deck facing the river at night.

'Sure she should not have done it and she admitted that in court but tell me who was harmed by her action?,' Mr. Brenkman wrote. 'Tell me the lonely tow boat crew hated it and wanted her arrested?'

He also criticized the city government for not acknowledging the locomotive and caboose display donated by Pioneer Railcorp, his railroad company.

City officials say Mr. Brenkman's problems can be traced back to Bikini's.

Steve Nylin, the economic development director, said Bikini's overshadowed Mr. Brenkman's other efforts to revive Keithsburg's business climate. Mr. Brenkman also had wanted to bring a bank into Keithsburg.

'It all boils down to that strip club,' Mr. Nylin said. 'That was the biggest issue. He was advised before he did that that wouldn't fly. I guess you would say that part was self-inflicted. He was doing some really good things for the town. That just overrode all the other things he was doing.'

Ald. George Askew said Mr. Brenkman brought his problems on himself.

'As far as I'm concerned, that's the best thing for him,' he said of Mr. Brenkman's departure.

Ms. O'Brien said she had always tried to treat Mr. Brenkman with respect and has nothing against him personally.

'I don't think he was treated badly,' she said. 'I think he treated us badly. Everything he wanted to do came with a price, and that was his other industry and his other industry isn't real nice.'