Demolition Day: Kit Kat Klub's last dance
Standing alone on stage at the Kit Kat Klub moments before the building was torn down, I became reflective.
Was it the mirrors covering the walls? Well, duh. But it was more than that. In my quarter century as a Boisean, I had never bothered to experience the Kit Kat. (At least that I remember.) It had taken me until this moment to grasp its colorful place in Idaho lore. Pausing in the very spot where countless dancers had gyrated for decades, I listened to the sound of a demolition excavator idle outside.
This was progress — an ancient dive bar mercifully being leveled. It also was a disappearing Treasure Valley icon. An artifact of sleaze? Yes. But a lost artifact, nonetheless. Where else could you find a strip club across the street from a cornfield?
When I broke the news Monday that the Ada County Highway District was demolishing the Kit Kat to make way for road widening at Black Cat and Franklin roads, it quickly became the most popular story at IdahoStatesman.com.
Comments rained like dollar bills in the VIP room. Sprinkled among the quips and crude remarks, a local history lesson started to be told. Below are some of my favorite takeaways and comments from hundreds of voices at IdahoStatesman.com and the Facebook pages of the Statesman and KIVI Channel 6. I fixed typos. Unless they made me laugh.
1. The Kit Kat had a ghost. “Talk about one of the most haunted places in this area,” shuddered one commenter. “Was so afraid to be alone there when I was bartending.”
At hauntedplaces.org, what looks like the same person speaks of the dancers’ mysteriously “pounding locker doors,” how she was “touched,” and how “equipment that was completely shut off would turn back on, and on one occasion while I was alone getting ready to open the bar, I turned and saw a man standing on the opposite side of the bar staring at me.”
2. The Kit Kat was not a topless bar. The Kit Kat was a bikini bar. Nudity is against the law in Idaho bars. “I was tricked into going in there once about 15 years ago and boy was I surprised to see topless dancers!” insisted one Facebook commenter, claiming my article was wrong. (Come on, lady. How big of a boob do you think I am?)
Responding with the proven opening-line winner “lmao,” another Facebooker retorted, “it was never topless. I’ve been working there for 6 years and before that my mom worked there for 15 years. lmao.”
3. Idaho hated the Kit Kat. As suburbia grew around it, the Kit Kat was not exactly in a perfect environment. “Good riddens!!!” one commenter declared twice. Added another: “This place was disgusting!” Other comments bordered on the Rapture. “Hallelujah! The families of West Meridian are more excited than you can possibly imagine!” ... “Praise the Lord!!!! We don’t need filth like that here in such a family-friendly area!!!!!”
4. Idaho loved the Kit Kat. Some women joked about its demise: “Great. Now I need to job hunt.” Others were bummed. “I am sad to see it go!!! It’s always been a Meridian icon. I have enjoyed memories there over the years, some even including my mother and sister.” ... “I feel strange being as upset as I am,” wrote another.
One man certainly spoke for a significant portion of his brethren when he asserted, “If girls in bikinis do not belong in residential areas, we should close the Meridian swimming pool.”
5. The Kit Kat loved our president. When President George W. Bush visited Idaho in 2005, the Kit Kat changed its sign to, “Free lapdance for the Prez.” So, one commenter wondered this week, “Did the Prez get his free lapdance?” No idea. This much we do know: “President Trump wouldn’t let this sort of thing happen,” a Facebooker declared, triggering replies: “Are they shipping the bikini dancers overseas?” “No, just on the horse trailer back to Kuna.”
6. The Kit Kat made some Idahoans smile. “Haha, my kids saw the lights a few years ago from the freeway and asked if it was Chuck E. Cheese, my husband and I just laughed and laughed!” ... A commenter who watched the demolition video noted, “It looks like they started by taking the top off first. Nice.” ... “Oh no! Now where will people buy their meth?” Reply: “Your garage.”
7. Strip club jokes can be cruel. Sample comments: “Where are the finest girls with drug problems gonna work now?” ... “C-section scar Sundays will be missed.” ... “What, you don’t like bruised up meth-head strippers?” ... “The (Spearmint) Rhino, meanwhile, will gain a ‘C’ team.”
8. The Kit Kat sign was clever: “Best sign ever seen at the Kit Kat Klub: HOTTER GIRLS COMING,” wrote one commenter. Another, possibly named Beavis, shared this: “My favorite memory was driving by one night and the ‘L’ light in the word ‘Pool’ was out. If I had only taken a picture: ‘GIRLS, BEER AND POO.’ Classic.”
9. The Kit Kat shall return. “I hear they’re opening up a new one, it’s apparently going to be really nice,” wrote one Facebooker. Well, the owner is getting paid, right? The amount listed in the court order granting possession to ACHD was $536,000 plus relocation expenses. That figure could be higher after negotiations.
10. Nothing beats a Kit Kat childhood memory. “This was our bus stop in grade school,” a man wrote. “I remember puddles of vomit, used needles, and the occasional passed out person in their vehicle while we waited for our school bus. The ’80s made kids tough! Hahaha!”
11. The Kit Kat was there before you were born. Digging through the Statesman archive, I found Kit Kat articles as far back as 1987. One clipping said it had “operated as a bar for 30 to 40 years,” which would mean as far back as 1947.
“I grew up 2 miles from there and it was nothing but farm land with a few neighbors along the way,” one commenter wrote. “It was a biker bar well before it was ever a strip club.” ... “My grandparents owned it in the ’50s and ’60s,” wrote another. “It was a grocery store and gas station with a bar back then.”
More memories: “I used to live in the house on five acres next to it on Black Cat Road. We never had any trouble with patrons of the club ... In fact, I even had some cowboys that would put their horses in my corral while they patronized the club. ... And by the way, it was not topless in the ’80s.”
12. Merritt’s had an airstrip. Whaaa? In the midst of the Facebook comments, this nugget appeared: “When we moved to Idaho in the mid-’60s, my dad actually considered buying Merritt’s Cafe on State Street, back then it had a small airstrip at the rear of the building.” True or false, I love it.
And this just in on Friday afternoon (8/12): After we posted this story, Lolitta Kinzer wrote in to say that her parents built the original club at the location in the early ’50s. Then called the Black Cat, the atmosphere was much different from the Kit Kat Klub. It was more of a relaxed lounge-type bar, and served Kinzer’s mother’s “famous spaghetti and meatballs on Friday and Saturday nights. It was never a grocery store. The grocery store and gas station were where the substation is now.”
So long, Kit Kat. We hardly knew ya.
Thanks for letting me take the last dance on your stage, Idaho.