A pastor who ministers in several churches in West Virginia has his mind set on converting a shuttered strip club into a church. He is hoping to raise $795,000 to transform the "devil's dominion" into a place of worship and healing.
Art Hage, who is a pastor at churches in Putnam and Cabell counties and also operates a local mission, has been eyeing the building that used to be home to the Pink Pony, a local strip club that was also the scene of a controversial robbery in 2003.
The strip club has been up for sale for over a year, according to The Associated Press.
Hage, if he manages to raise the money before another interested party purchases the building, plans to flip the Pink Pony into a church and a rehabilitation center to help the area's homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts. The West Virginia pastor is even hoping those who once visited the strip club will return for "spiritual healing," he told local news station WOWK-TV.
"It has such a bad reputation and we feel like we could make it good," Hage told The Charleston Gazette. "Gambling, drinking, all of it's bad and it produces a society that's out of control. It has got to be stopped."
As for whether he believes people would find it difficult to worship God in what once used to be "the devil's dominion," as another local pastor put it, Hage is not worried.
"That stigma is not going to hurt us. It's going to help us," he said.
The Rev. Dave Buckley, pastor of Cross Lanes Bible Church, supports Hage's vision, saying that to have "a place go from the devil's dominion... to a place of worship and proclamation of the gospel is a victory."
Karl Priest, a friend of Hage's who reportedly tipped him off about the site, told The Charleston Gazette: "I'd like to see 'Jesus saves' on the sign that now says Pink Pony."
According to a parishioner at one of Hage's churches, it would likely take a year to remodel and add on to the building, which could potentially serve 300 families.
It was not clear how much progress Hage had made in raising the $795,000 needed to purchase the property. If the goal is not reached, the pastor reportedly plans to use the donated money in the current ministries he oversees.
Hage has visited the site, where he and Priest prayed in the parking lot, but has not been inside the Pink Pony. Neither has the pastor made an offer in writing, according to the broker showing the property, The Charleston Gazette reported. The broker noted that she had received several offers for the former strip club.