VASSALBORO, Me. — Less than 10 days after the City Council of nearby Waterville, at the urging of the local planning board, had considered passing a new anti-adult ordinance that would restrict adult book and video stores, strip clubs, (new) massage parlors and "other adult entertainment" out of the downtown area — a push at least partly fueled by the February opening of the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro — the Grand View has been burned to the ground, in an action a state fire official described as "arson."
The Grand View, created on the site of a bankrupt motel by owner Donald Crabtree, opened its doors on Feb. 23, and gained nationwide attention due to America's unceasing obsession with sex its unusual waitress staff, who served coffee and doughnuts to the restaurant's all-over-18 customer base topless.
But recently, Crabtree had been making noises about turning the coffee shop into a strip club. That was the inspiration for Waterville's new ordinance ... and may also have been the impetus for the arson.
The fire was reported just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday by an ambulance crew that happened to be driving by the location. They immediately woke Crabtree and his extended family — two daughters, their two boyfriends, and his two infant grandchildren — who were living in quarters in back of the coffee shop. Fire officials deemed the building a "total loss," and after determining that the blaze was caused by arson, collected evidence and sent it to the local police crime lab for analysis.
Crabtree, who had spent $277,000 to acquire and refurbish the motel into his 25-table coffee shop, was not insured, but said that he was determined to reopen the business.
"I'll keep going," he said. " I've got some girls out of work and I'm going to do all I can to get in there."
The shop had 10 female and three male employees, and was reportedly doing a brisk business.
"It's just been crowds mobbing in," Crabtree told CNN shortly after Grand View's grand opening.
"I really liked it here," said waitress Krista Macentyre after having been informed of the arson determination. "We weren't hurting anyone. I don't know why someone would do something like this... This was a good, innocent business. Every worker was just trying to take care of themselves and make a living — just trying to live like everybody else."
Crabtree is reportedly considering reopening the shop in a temporary mobile trailer on the site.
"This place was made to put smiles on people's faces," he told CNN on Wednesday.
Although Crabtree received widespread support from his patrons, the concept of a topless coffee shop had gotten mixed reactions from Vassalboro's 4,400 residents.
"I'm a believer and I'm a Christian and I don't want this trash in my backyard," said Vassalboro resident Sherry Perry. "No good can come from it."