|When the traditional
media wants to jack-up their ratings, where can they go for some good titillation?
They go straight to the strip clubs! What LA strip club or dancer is showing
up on TV or in print? Find out right here. Who knows, you just might find some
interesting news here too.
December 14, 2006
The city sued the owners of the strip club at 18454 Oxnard St. on June 1, alleging it was within 500 feet of a residential area in violation of the city's zoning code.
Another judge denied motions by the city for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, but the city is still asking for a trial on the issue of a permanent injunction. A non-jury trial is set for May 21.
On Sept. 28, the Frisky Kitty owners filed an amended countersuit claiming the zoning code violates their civil rights and should be found unconstitutional. The suit asked for damages from the city if the club is forced to shut down and the owners later win their countersuit.
Mackey said the lawsuit did not raise enough facts to support the arguments.
"The (countersuit) fails to point to a statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage that subjected (the club) to the alleged deprivation of its (civil) rights," Mackey stated in a three-page ruling.
Issues raised by the countersuit were already litigated in a previous lawsuit filed by the club, Mackey said.
December 12, 2006
By Leonor Vivanco, Staff Writer
FONTANA - City leaders are taking a strip club to court. They want to shut it down. Some residents aren't happy with it either.
"It's an eyesore in our neighborhood," said Sandra Johnson, who lives in the Village of Heritage across the street from Diamonds Gentlemen's Club in the 14000 block of Foothill Boulevard.
"It does not leave a good impression on people driving through the area."
Not so, says the club's lawyer, Roger Jon Diamond.
"It's harmless and it provides entertainment for people who choose to go there," he said.
Personal feelings aside, the city's legal issue with the club and owners Irma Linda Diaz and Joe Diaz is that they don't have a permit to operate an adult business and must be stopped, officials said.
That's what a judge will be asked to decide Jan. 12 in San Bernardino Superior Court. The suit was filed Aug. 31.
Diamonds wasn't even in the city until it was annexed in 2005. Although the club operators applied for a license, it wasn't issued because of two code violations, said Planning Director Don Williams. The violations were storing semi trailers on the property and reroofing the building without a permit.
The property's zoning allows adult businesses, but the owners must have a permit to operate, Williams said.
To date, no permit has been approved by the city for the strip club. Meanwhile, a sign at the club indicates that it is open for business Wednesday through Sunday.
Diamond, representing the owners, tells a different story.
"My client is willing to get whatever permits and licenses necessary, but the city is giving him a hard time," he said.
"In particular, the city will not give a license to the business because the city says the zoning law bars that business at that location."
The city's ordinance also states no adult-oriented business can be established or located within 400 feet of any existing residential district, park, religious institution or school.
Village of Heritage homes are across the street, and down the block is Almond Elementary School.
The city's ordinance, Diamond said, does not provide for a sufficient number of alternative sites for adult businesses.
City Manager Ken Hunt said he disagrees with Diamond that Fontana's ordinance is problematic.
"We actually spent a lot of time and effort, in our opinion, to make sure we crafted an ordinance that was within the constitutional guidelines," he said.
The city plans to defend its ordinance, he said.
"It does provide sufficient opportunity for adult-oriented businesses to be in town," Hunt said.
Staff writer Leonor Vivanco can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (909) 386-3875.
December 9, 2006By Kenneth Todd Ruiz Staff Writer
PASADENA - It wasn't City Hall or outraged neighbors keeping the doors of a new strip club shut Friday night.
Owner Greg Hakopyan's provocative plan to open the fully nude, adult cabaret at 2180 E. Foothill Blvd. in defiance of the city was delayed for hours after a fender bender held up the dancers on the San Bernardino (10) Freeway.
Regardless, Hakopyan said as one of the erotic performers came through the door, the club is open for business.
"I'm going to be open Friday, I'm going to be open through the weekend and I'm going to be open Monday and Tuesday," Hakopyan said. "They'll have to get a court order to shut me down."
What had long been the shell of a former pizzeria is now "Peppermint Garden," although Hakopyan said they had considered leaving the name "Shakey's."
It still resembles a defunct restaurant from the outside, where a notice of Hakopyan's pending Thursday hearing on his permit is lashed to a chain-link fence.
Inside, mirror panels surround tables and chairs six feet away from the focal point, where a steel pole bisects a small stage.
Hakopyan said he had opened for several hours Tuesday night, one day after the City Council passed new rules for adult businesses, under which his location becomes invalid.
Those rules should go into effect after a second reading by the council on Monday and will likely be immediately challenged in court.
By operating without the necessary "expressive use" permits, the club could be running afoul of city code, but it's not a criminal matter, according to the police.
"It's not something we would be rushing out and acting upon," said Pasadena police Cmdr. Paul Gales.
Not having the permits needed was a matter for code enforcement, he said, but the department would be vigilant for any illegal activity.
By opening the business, Hakopyan puts the city in the position of having to close an operating business if it acts to shut him down.
He has already sued the city twice, first after it stopped issuing the permits he applied for and again when City Hall hastily assembled a new ordinance that effectively prevents him from doing business.
The potential of a fully nude cabaret in their neighborhood brought residents and business owners together, who have campaigned since August against the club for fear of its impact on their community, public safety and property values.
More than 5,000 signatures were collected asking for stricter rules from the city, including a 500-foot separation requirement from residential areas.
Because the city must provide a reasonable number of sites for such businesses to operate, it drafted rules it hopes are as strict as possible and will hold up under a legal challenge in the courts.
Hakopyan, a Glendora resident, said he verified the site's validity numerous times with the city before closing escrow on the $3.5 million property.
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444
December 8, 2006By CHRIS RICHARD
Court testimony has begun in a renewed effort by San Bernardino officials to close the Flesh Club, a Hospitality Lane strip club that they say doubles as a brothel.
In hearings this week, private lawyers representing the city presented evidence from a July 1999 undercover investigation. In it, an officer alleged that a dancer engaged in an act of prostitution at the Flesh Club.
A private investigator also cited Internet postings purporting to show the club has a reputation as a likely spot for those seeking paid sex.
"We're trying to show that this prostitution activity is ongoing," attorney Joseph Arias said. "It was going on (in 1999), and it's still going on."
But Flesh Club attorney Roger Diamond questioned the reliability of anonymous Internet postings and said officials are trying to recycle out-of-date investigations.
"This is a total waste of taxpayer money," Diamond said. "It's costing my client a lot of money, too, and he's operating a legal business. It has not caused the downfall of western civilization the way (city officials) said it would."
San Bernardino officials have been trying to close the club in the heart of the city's business district since January 1995, when city leaders challenged it as violating zoning ordinances.
They obtained a court order closing the Flesh Club. A year later, a Superior Court judge lifted the order. The city appealed.
In 1999, a state appeals court found San Bernardino's regulations to be unconstitutional, in part because they did not allow for an alternative location where the club could do business.
Further, the court faulted the city for failing to produce sufficient evidence that a topless club would hurt the quality of life along Hospitality Lane.
In June 2004, the club's management company won a $1.4 million judgment against the city for profits lost during the closure. But the jury in that case did find that illegal activity -- prostitution -- accounted for some Flesh Club profits after it reopened.
At the time, City Attorney Jim Penman said he would use that finding to renew his quest to close the club. That "red-light abatement" effort has prompted an on-again, off-again trial that started July 25.
So far, the city has paid almost a half-million dollars in legal fees for Flesh Club litigation, Penman said. The largest sum, a little more than $326,000, has gone to defend the city government against the Flesh Club lawsuit, Penman said. The judgment in that case is awaiting a review by the state Supreme Court.
Almost $130,000 has gone for fees to pursue the abatement action.
The trial has entered another recess, and testimony will resume in early January, Penman said. Attorneys have not set a schedule for concluding the proceedings.
Before he was elected in March, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris accused Penman -- a rival mayoral candidate at the time -- of launching a misguided and expensive crusade against the club.
Morris could not be reached for comment Thursday. But Jim Morris, his son and chief of staff, said the two had discussed the current abatement effort and the mayor does not question it.
He said the mayor's objection was restricted to the original zoning law, which clearly was unconstitutional, and to the effort to defend it in court.
Penman said he has always acted at the direction of the City Council and of the mayor's predecessors.
"They were always consistent on two things," he said. "They didn't think a strip club was appropriate for Hospitality Lane. And they felt that if we knew about prostitution taking place, we had to try to stop it."
Reach Chris Richard at 909-806-3076 or crichard@PE.com
November 28, 2006
By Araceli Esparza Staff Writer
SANTA FE SPRINGS - Officials have met with dozens of city commissioners and committee members to explain the details of a proposed ordinance that would regulate where adult businesses could open in Santa Fe Springs.
Paul Ashworth, assistant to the director of planning and development, said he has spent the past two months briefing commissioners and committee members. Planning Commission members must be clear about the ordinance as they will be voting on it.
The proposal would bar any new adult-oriented business, such as strip clubs or adult book stores, from opening within 500 feet of any school or residential area. It would not, however, require a similar "buffer zone" for churches.
"City Council wanted to make these presentations because it is an important issue to the community as a whole and it was also an issue that was the target of some misinformation," Ashworth said.
Planning Commission members will meet Dec. 11 to determine whether to approve the ordinance as is, recommend changes, or move it on to the City Council for consideration. The commissioners also could opt to delay taking action.
Any new ordinance, however, would not apply to the Spicy Gentlemen's Club, which opened on Slauson Avenue this summer without informing city officials it featured nude dancers.
Although officials have sent a cease and desist letter to Spicy's owner, the city has taken no further action. Meanwhile, the owner has hired famed strip-club defender Roger Jon Diamond as his attorney.
(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024
November 10, 2006
By DAVID MCGRATH SCHWARTZ and ED VOGEL
CARSON CITY -- At the very least, you'll have to get your Las Vegas lap dances without any fondling or caressing.
That's the result of a Nevada Supreme Court decision handed down Thursday that imposes conditions on that staple of strip club activity.
The two sides in the case have differing views of the decision's effect.
A lawyer for exotic dancers and a civil libertarian said the ruling essentially makes lap dances illegal in Las Vegas.
Not so, city of Las Vegas officials said as they gave the green light for grinding inside city limits.
In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Las Vegas ordinance that prohibits exotic dancers from fondling or caressing patrons with the intent to sexually arouse. It prevents customers from doing the same to dancers.
In the decision, Justice Nancy Becker said the city ordinance was intended to prohibit lap dancing.
Fourteen dancers had been given misdemeanor citations by Las Vegas police for violating the ordinance. The acts included rubbing breasts against patrons' faces and grinding buttocks into patrons' groins, according to the ruling.
The strippers challenged the city's ordinance, and a District Court judge found the law to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.
Thursday's ruling, though, said that patrons and dancers are clearly aware of the meaning of terms like "fondle" and "caress" and that such conduct is prohibited in Las Vegas strip clubs.
"The public hearings surrounding the enactment (of the city ordinance) make clear that the ordinance was intended to prevent conduct such as lap dances and other sexually explicit touching," Becker wrote in the majority opinion.
But City Attorney Brad Jerbic said lap dances are still legal. "The ordinance never banned lap dancing, and the decision by the Supreme Court doesn't ban lap dancing," he said. He said dancers and patrons would be breaking the law if they were fondling or caressing.
It would be tough for most dancers to make a living without lap dances, said the women at Glitter Gulch on the Fremont Street Experience.
A dancer who identified herself only as Chrissy said lap dances make up 75 percent of her income. She admitted some touching goes on -- "It's for your balance, mostly" -- and said it would be tough to convince men to cough up $35 for a private room dance if their was a separation.
"Who would want to pay for something that you could see on the stage show?" she said, motioning to a gyrating colleague working a pole.
Her friend, who would not give her name, said that before she came to Las Vegas three years ago, she worked in Oregon. That state did not allow dancers to touch patrons but did allow them to be fully nude and allowed` the establishments to serve alcohol, she said. In most cases in the Las Vegas Valley, only topless clubs can serve alcohol.
"This is considered Sin City, and if Oregon is more sinful than we are, that's weird," she said.
The city had considered instituting a "no-touch" rule but decided in favor of a more permissive ordinance.
Jonathan Powell, one of the lawyers who represented strippers who challenged the ordinance, said the logical conclusion of the decision is that lap dancing is now prohibited in Las Vegas.
Powell said the dancers, including one named Fanny Li and one named Michelle Admire, are considering their options, such as asking for a rehearing or taking the case to the federal court.
The ordinance does not give police, patrons and dancers enough guidance about what type of conduct is prohibited in strip clubs, he said.
"In these cases, the patron can be just as liable as the dancer," he said. "But the patron is never charged. We do not think that is fair."
Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said that if he had a client who was a stripper, he would advise her that lap dancing is illegal in city limits.
"Very clearly, this ruling says the ordinance is designed to prohibit lap dancing. It says lap dancing is illegal in this law, and this law is constitutional," Lichtenstein said. Neither he nor the ACLU was involved in this case.
He added that he believed the city's law is unconstitutional. "The fact that we're even having this discussion indicates that this really is vague," he said.
The ruling would have no impact on Clark County's ordinance, which, unlike the city ordinance, goes into sometimes graphic detail about what erotic dancers are or are not allowed to do.
For example, it says that dancers "may allow their clothed anus, pubic region and genitals to make contact with a patron's leg(s), excluding the patron's feet."
In its ruling Thursday, the court threw out a January 2005 decision by District Judge Sally Loehrer, who ruled that the city ordinance was unconstitutional because it was vague and overbroad. Loehrer contended that the ordinance was not clear enough for police "to know what is allowable and what is not."
Becker noted the ordinance provides an "adequate standard" for police in determining if the law is being violated.
November 7, 2006
By Jim Brunner Seattle Times staff reporter
It looks like lap dances will remain legal in Seattle.
With a no vote on Seattle Referendum 1, voters were firmly rejecting the city's "four-foot rule," which would have banned lap dances by requiring exotic dancers and customers to keep their distance.
The rule was part of a strict new strip-club ordinance approved by the Seattle City Council last year. The ordinance also would have banned direct tipping of dancers, forced clubs to install brighter lights and prohibited private dances some clubs offer in "VIP" rooms or booths.
Such regulations are common in more conservative suburbs. But they apparently went against the grain of Seattle's urban electorate.
"I think Seattle is more open-minded and liberal than our politicians give us credit for being," said Tim Killian, campaign manager for Seattle Citizens for Free Speech, the strip-club-funded campaign to overturn the rules, which were not being enforced pending the vote. The campaign was as lopsided as any in Seattle history, with clubs raising $866,000 for the effort to overturn the four-foot rule; supporters of the rule raised nothing. The clubs used the money to pay for TV ads portraying supporters of the ordinance as moral scolds.
Supporters of stricter rules, including Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, had argued that the laws would allow police to more easily inspect clubs and spot illegal activities. But the city produced little evidence to suggest that strip clubs cause significant crime problems.
Tuesday's result could lead to new strip clubs opening in the city for the first time in decades. The city had a moratorium on new clubs for 17 years, but it was ruled illegal last year.
Nickels said the defeat of the rules creates "a financial motive to have strip clubs in the city." He has proposed zoning that would limit new clubs to an industrial part of South Seattle.
The defeat of the rule means the city will revert to its old law, which prohibits sexual contact and displays of nudity offstage in clubs.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or email@example.com
October 20, 2006
LOS ANGELES -- A Cuban model well-known in Latin America sued the owners of a West Los Angeles strip club, alleging they used a photograph of her in an advertisement for the establishment without her permission.
Mayra Veronica Aruca filed her lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Stars Planet Inc., owners of the Silver Reign club at 11908 Mississippi Ave.
Aruca, who is known professionally as Mayra Veronica, alleges misappropriation of image and likeness, invasion of privacy and unjust enrichment.
Aruca is asking for unspecified general, special and punitive damages, as well as restitution of profits earned by the business for allegedly obtaining a financial benefit from using the photo without her permission in the L.A. Weekly and other unspecified publications.
According to the lawsuit, the photo put Aruca in a false light because it suggests she approves and recommends live nude entertainment.
David Chew, a corporate officer of Star Planet Inc., said a graphic art designer the company hired to make the ad took the woman's photo from an Internet site.
The club owners did not know the image was of Aruca until her lawyers asked them to stop using it about four months ago, Chew said. The ad was then pulled, Chew said.
The club is closed for remodeling and will re-open Wednesday, Chew said. Another Silver Reign club at 1616 E. 15th St. in downtown Los Angeles has closed permanently, he said.
Aruca, 29, is a regular cast member of Univision's "Don Francisco Presenta" and has been featured in ads for Coca-Cola, Burger King, Ford, Tide, Colgate and L'Oreal.
October 6, 2006A Hemet man has been arrested in the fatal shooting this week of a bouncer at a Santa Ana strip club, authorities said Thursday.
Carlos Rosario Gonzales, 34, is to be arraigned Oct. 20 in the death of Michael Blankenhorn in the parking lot of the California Girls Night Club in the 1100 block of Harbor Boulevard. A fight broke out after Blankenhorn, 26, asked Gonzales and his friends to leave the club Monday about 6:45 p.m., police said.
During the fight, Gonzales allegedly left and then returned with a gun and shot the bouncer in the back, police said.
October 2, 2006
A man in his 30's is in critical condition after being shot at a strip club.
The shooting happened shortly after midnight Monday in the parking lot of the Alameda Strip Club in South Los Angeles, said Sgt. Amber Morales of the Los Angeles Police Department's Newton Station.
The man was shot once in the abdomen and taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
So far, there is no suspect or motive, but authorities say the shooting was not gang related.
September 30, 2006
By Araceli Esparza Staff Writer
SANTA FE SPRINGS - Officials have deferred taking action on a local strip club owner's failure to stop adult entertainment activities at his business.
City Manager Fred Latham said council members decided in a closed session Thursday to take more time on the matter, saying they would like to research their options "prior to enforcing a cease-and-desist order" against the owner.
Kwong, owner of Spicy Gentlemen's Club on Slauson Avenue, last month was served with an order to immediately put a halt to his restaurant-turned-strip club. But nothing has changed at the business, according to Kwong's attorney.
"We haven't ignored the cease-and-desist order," said Roger Diamond, a well-known attorney for adult business operators. "We read it very carefully ... we don't think it's correct."
Spicy's has been a contentious issue since the adult business opened in Santa Fe Springs early last month.
On Monday, community church members met with the Planning Commission to express their opposition to an ordinance that could make churches and strip clubs neighbors in Santa Fe Springs.
A Supreme Court ruling leaves it to each city's discretion to keep or remove setback requirements from community churches. Planning commissioners put off the proposal until Oct. 9.
In the meantime, the issue with Spicy's centers on how it managed to open its business in Santa Fe Springs to begin with.
City officials insist Kwong misrepresented himself when he applied for permits for Spicy's, sans the words "gentlemen's club." They say Spicy's has been operating as a strip club-type cabaret in a non-commercial zone.
Diamond has consistently said the city's zoning codes are "unconstitutional." It is Kwong's First Amendment right to include live adult entertainment at his restaurant if he's not given another site in which he could open an adult business, he added.
Meanwhile, the city has hired attorney Deborah Fox, who specializes in First Amendment and adult entertainment businesses litigations, to work with City Council members.
Fox could not be reached for comment.
Officials contend that the issue with Spicy's has nothing to do with housing adult businesses in Santa Fe Springs. The city already has the Holiday strip club on Norwalk Boulevard.
"The position we've taken is that they're located in an inappropriate zone," Latham said.
The city manager added that city officials are now exploring their options regarding Spicy's. He declined further details, citing closed-session confidentiality.
"Most importantly, it's for them to understand the options the city will have to act legally and appropriately in responding to this business coming in to our city," Latham said.
Enforcing the cease-and-desist order will be discussed again at the next City Council meeting on Oct. 12.
(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024
September 11, 2006
KVBC Las Vegas
This week, the City revoked the liquor license for the Crazy Horse Too strip club because of the owner's run-ins with the law. After threatening to ignore the order, the owner finally threw in the towel and on Friday afternoon announced he was temporarily going to close.
Owners of the Crazy Horse Too topless club are defying an order from the City of Las Vegas to stop serving alcohol. That order was upheld in court Friday by a local judge but the fight is far from finished.
The club's attorney says the club still has the right to serve drinks. He says the City didn't properly serve the club with a no-alcohol order and that's why the club will keep the booze flowing for the time being.
However, Las Vegas City attorney Brad Jerbic says if the club keeps serving drinks, it will be cited. "It's a misdemeanor under city law to serve alcohol without a license and if that's what's going to happen after today's hearing, then we'll have law enforcement officers out there and they'll take appropriate action."
Jerbic says the City gave someone from the club the no-alcohol order Thursday afternoon. But Crazy Horse Too attorney Tony Sgro says the City didn't do things the right way. "They set the document on the bar, they took a picture and then they left. That does not conform with the statutory service requirements," said Sgro.
Earlier this week, the City Council stripped the club of its liquor license. That's because several employees, including owner Rick Rizzolo, have pleaded guilty to federal charges of extortion.
Attorneys for the club say this legal fight is not finished. A judge will make a final ruling on the club's liquor license at a hearing set for next Tuesday. Meantime, the City says it will start handing out citations to anyone who serves a drink inside the Crazy Horse Too. They could be looking at a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail.
Along with revoking the club's liquor license, the City Council also fined the owners of the Crazy Horse Too more than $2 million.
September 8, 2006
Around 2,000 residents and business owners have signed a nostripper.com petition in the last eight days telling the City Council to pass more restrictive laws regulating adult clubs in Pasadena.
Nostrippers.com began less than two weeks ago when a small group of business owners decided to start a grass roots campaign to fight the property owner's plans.
Advertising agency owner Robert Meyers has been heading up the group.
"It's just incredible, it's moved so fast," he said of the local response.
Thursday night, the planning commission voted to recommend the City Council pass an ordinance banning adult businesses within 500 feet of residential areas. The issue will go in front of the City Council for a public hearing Sept. 11.
September 6, 2006
David Klotz, of San Francisco, died just hours after he and his friends went to Santa Barbara's Spearmint Rhino Adult Cabaret early Saturday to celebrate a friend's wedding, according to Lt. Paul McCaffrey, a police spokesman.
The cause of death was under investigation, but McCaffrey said Klotz died soon after a scuffle with the club's security personnel. A club manager declined to comment.
According to police, Klotz and his friends arrived at the club about 1:30 a.m., but Klotz soon left the others to go to a private room with one of the dancers.
Police said his friends had left by the time the dancer told Klotz he owed $960 for the 70-minute session in the private room.
When he protested and tried to leave a scuffle ensued, McCaffrey said. By
the time police arrived he was having difficulty breathing, and paramedics were
called. He was taken to Cottage Hospital, where he died.
Klotz's mother said her son had high blood pressure but she was not aware of any heart problem.
"He was a happy, smiling, wonderful person," Susan Klotz said from her home in Petaluma. "He was everybody's best friend."
Her only son was a University of California, Santa Barbara, graduate who worked as an accountant with Ernst & Young in San Francisco, his mother said.
"It's a complete and utter absolute waste," she said of his death.
September 2, 2006
By Robert Rogers, Staff Writer San Bernardino County Sun
SAN BERNARDINO - About a decade into the protracted battle between the city and a local strip club, the state's highest court has agreed to settle the dispute. The California Supreme Court has agreed to take the case, which heated up last year when the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled the city should pay the Flesh Club $1.4 million for damages the club suffered as a result of injunctions that required dancers to wear bikinis in the mid-1990s.
The city has long contended the club is a de facto house of prostitution.
"This is very good news because had the court voted not to take the case, that would have been the end of the line, and the city would have had to pay $1.4 million in addition to legal fees," said City Attorney James F. Penman.
"It also would have meant substantial new limits on remedies that cities and counties could pursue against unlawful business activities."
The court's seven members unanimously decided to take the case Thursday, but the city was informed of the decision Friday, Penman said. Briefs could be filed and the case be heard in open court by early next year.
The city sought injunctions against the club in the mid-1990s. A court ruled at the time that the dancers must wear bikinis, which sharply reduced business and spurred lawyers for the club to sue the city on First Amendment grounds.
Although a jury found that acts of prostitution occurred at the club, a court ruled that the city's zoning laws were unconstitutional and awarded the club $1.4 million in damages to its business.
The district court affirmed the damages last year.
Penman said the state high court's decision to review the case boosts the city's hopes.
"No one expected the court to take the case, much less unanimously," Penman said.
The club endures, thanks to paying customers, despite its odd fit on Hospitality Lane, one of the city's main commercial areas.
The club's owners have also embraced the political attention drawn by the long feud, posting on a marquee words taunting Penman.
August 30, 2006
By Araceli Esparza Staff Writer, Whittier Daily News
SANTA FE SPRINGS - A restaurant-turned-strip club has officials insisting that the adult business misrepresented itself when it applied for business permits.
Spicy Gentlemen's Club, which opened earlier this month, was served with a "cease-and-desist" letter Friday after the city learned it has been operating as an adult entertainment venue in a non-commercial zone.
Roger Diamond, a well-known adult-business attorney, said the city zoning code is "unconstitutional" and that his client, doesn't "have to obey it." Spicy's has been given no other location options in Santa Fe Springs, so strip club officials are conducting business as usual, he added.
But business owner Kwong never mentioned a strip club-type cabaret when he told the city he would be opening up Spicy's - sans the adult business subtitle - on Slauson Avenue, said attorney Deborah Fox, who has been hired by Santa Fe Springs.
"They represented themselves to be a restaurant and then made some major modifications without seeking approval from the city," Fox said. Spicy's and Santa Fe Springs officials are expected to meet after the Labor Day holiday to begin hammering out what the future will hold for the strip club, said Diamond. No legal action has been taken.
Conflict between Diamond and Santa Fe Springs surfaced recently after Diamond told the city, in a letter, that Kwong was adding an adult business facet to his business, which took over the former Blondie's restaurant. Spicy's also has a full kitchen.
The tensions come at a time when a proposed revision in the city's adult business ordinance has been under way. However, Spicy's had no bearing on city plans to revise the ordinance, according to City Manager Fred Latham.
"There's been a number of recent court decisions that have required us to amend our existing - or at least our previous - regulations," Latham said, noting that the city has had these regulation updates in the works since May.
The City Council recently adopted state-of-the-art operational standards to create provisions for lighting, seating, security and live entertainment at its adult businesses, said Fox. The new license procedures went into effect immediately.
Regulations regarding an adult business' location will be addressed next month, said Paul Ashworth, who works in the planning department.
Officials also said the conflict regarding Spicy's does not really have to do with permitting such businesses in Santa Fe Springs. The city already has the Holiday strip club along Norwalk Boulevard.
The question is whether Spicy's could operate as an adult business in an M2 zone - a designated industrial area - when the club's owners initially failed to present it that way. Diamond said Kwong has a First Amendment right to include live adult entertainment at his restaurant, especially, as he claims, if he is not given another site in which he could open an adult business.
But skirting the law to open an adult business under the guise of a restaurant is an issue, according to the city.
"We're concerned about any business that inappropriately locates itself in an inappropriate zone, and we have expressed our concern about this through our correspondence with them," Latham said.
Diamond said he'd rather let free enterprise, not politicians, decide on the fate of his client's business.
"If people don't want it there, and they don't support it, it will go out of business. Nobody in the neighborhoods, no church groups - nobody - has complained," Diamond said.
(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024
August 28, 2006
By Andrew Moyle
Recent word of the imminent arrival of an upscale strip club near Little Tokyo and the Arts District has raised the ire of community and city officials.
Slated to open in mid-October in a former warehouse on the corner of Vignes and Commercial streets, the topless club, part of a chain liscensed by Penthouse Media Group, represents an investment of $1.5 million, potentially 40 non-dancing jobs and thousands of dollars in tax revenue for the city.
But the site, in a heavily industrial section of Downtown bordered by First and Alameda streets, the 101 Freeway and the Los Angeles River, is three short blocks away from the Nishi Hongwanji Betsuin, a Buddhist temple and community center at 815 E. First St.
There, Boy and Girl Scouts hold meetings, a daycare program looks after toddlers on workdays and family-oriented events take place as many as six nights a week.
"We just don't want our kids to have to deal with that type of environment around the temple," said Eric Kurimura, a temple board member and secretary of the Little Tokyo Community Council. "The idea of having an adult entertainment place down the street gives us concern."
But it may be too late for Little Tokyo and Arts District stakeholders to do anything about it. A certificate of occupancy from the Building and Safety Department already hangs on the office wall of the club at 711 E. Ducommon St., and the remaining hurdle - the application for a conditional use permit to serve wine and beer - is before the zoning administrator.
"Somehow there was a breakdown, that this type of business got this far through the planning process without anyone knowing about it," Kurimura said. "It may be an upscale establishment, but the way the whole process happened, it seemed there was a deliberate attempt to keep the community in the dark."
No Mud and No Bull
Max Amadi, who is overseeing the details for the Penthouse Club's opening, sat behind the club's desk last week, a telephone receiver pressed to his ear. On the other end of the line was the club's insurer.
"Mechanical devices?" Amadi repeated. "You mean like riding bulls? No. No mechanical devices."
The insurer's questions kept coming, one after the other, and Amadi's answer was always the same. Gambling? No. Athletic events? "Like mud wrestling?" No.
"We're trying to attract rich businessmen, not horny 19-year olds," Amadi declared curtly before hanging up.
A tour of the unfinished establishment showed what he meant. Well appointed with brass fixtures, a fireplace, a DJ booth replete with iron scrollwork, an elevated, glassed-in dining area, a glass-doored wine room and a VIP level overlooking the stage below, the club will seem classy, as far as strip clubs go.
The move is Penthouse's first foray into California. Incorporated in Nevada and headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., the magazine and media empire has licensed 10 clubs across the continent, including spots in New York, New Orleans and Phoenix.
Jeff Stoller, director of global club licensing for Penthouse, said the new club will be different than other topless joints.
"With all due respect, there haven't been clubs like this in Los Angeles. It's like trying to explain Ruth's Chris Steak House to someone who's only been to McDonald's," Stoller said.
It will be safe, too, Stoller and Amadi contend. Plans call for more than 30 closed-circuit television cameras, a $200,000 fire tunnel and 133 off-street parking spaces, Amadi said.
"Our conscience rests mostly on security issues because we're going to be the only business open here past 6 p.m.," he added.
Surrounding the club are industrial warehouses and small businesses. A Metro Gold Line stop is slated to open at Alameda and First streets in 2009. Goings-on at the Hongwanji temple and the bar Little Pedro's are, for now, the only other nighttime activities of note in the area.
"Instead of having an empty property in the area, it will be occupied by people who are paying attention and want to keep the area safe," Stoller said. "What's wrong with that?"
A lot, said Sgt. Aloaf Walker, who heads the LAPD Central Division's five-detective-strong vice squad.
"In my belief, alcohol and nudity don't mix well," Walker said. "I expect to see an increase in prostitution activity, along with other sex crimes. A lot of police response in the community, in other words."
Walker was unconvinced by the assurances from Amadi and Stoller that the Penthouse would provide an upscale experience.
"I'm sure that's what they're hoping," he said. "Every business is hoping for a certain clientele. But if you don't get that clientele, or things get tough, then you try to get anybody you can inside in order to keep the doors open. I understand what they want the clientele to be, but what it will be remains to be seen."
Echoing Walker's concerns was Jan Perry, the Downtown councilwoman whose Ninth District doesn't include the club but who believes her constituents will be negatively impacted by its presence. Perry said she has worked to stop strip clubs from opening wherever possible.
"This club would create a magnet to attract an arguably criminal element and it creates all sorts of problems," she said.
Others object to the orientation of the club's signage. Although Stoller was adamant that signs facing the 101 Freeway and the future Gold Line extension won't "look cheesy. It's not going to be pink neon," some don't like the association handed to passing motorists and rail riders.
"Basically, it's like Penthouse invites you to the Arts District in Little Tokyo," Joel Bloom, owner of Bloom's General Store, half-joked. "Is that what we really want?"
Like many in the community, Bloom only learned about the club in the week before the August 14 conditional use hearing, during which he and others voiced their concerns.
Many of the objections were directed at the presence of adult entertainment, even though the go-ahead had already been delivered by the Department of Building and Safety.
"Some of them were just expressing a moral opposition to the whole industry. I think [they] may not have realized that they were there only for the [conditional use permit]," Stoller said. "The certificate of occupancy was already approved."
The club would be the first in Central Division's coverage area, but Walker believes it won't be the last.
"All it takes is a groundbreaker, a pioneer. If it's profitable, there will be more clubs coming in," Walker said.
An Unintended Consequence
Councilman Jos Huizar, whose 14th District includes the club property, has a policy of opposing all wine and beer permits.
"I make very few exceptions, for example, on-site family restaurants," Huizar said. "But District 14 has more than its fair share of sites for alcohol sales. I look at the Penthouse facility as just another facility I wouldn't support under my general guidelines."
But heading off the club's conditional use permit may have an unintended consequence, given that the certificate of occupancy has already been issued.
A club with just that certificate can only operate as an 18-and-over, so-called "juice bar," where fully nude performers are allowed, and alcohol is not. If that happens, Penthouse wants nothing to do with the end result, Amadi said.
"They have very high standards in terms of where they want to put their name," Amadi said.
Kurimura grasped that concept, but said he didn't like the choice it presented.
"In either case, we don't want that type of establishment that close to the temple," he said. "Unfortunately, if they follow the law, there's no other course of action for us to take."
Contact Andrew Moyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 18, 2006
August 2, 2006
According to documents obtained by Gamasutra, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of Rockstar Games in 'E.S.S. Entertainment 2000 v. Rock Star Video', agreeing that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas did not violate the strip club's trademarked Play Pen sign, and was protected under the First Amendment.
The ruling appears to be important to game developers everywhere, not just Rockstar and the Grand Theft Auto creators, in that it suggests that stylized or parodic versions of real-life location can be used in video games, providing a couple of specific First Amendment rules are met.
The final judgment regarding the Pig Pen, which is located in GTA: SA's 'Los Santos' locality, generally agreed to resemble the real-life Los Angeles Play Pen, suggests: "The court finds that defendants' use of the Play Pen trade dress and trademark bears some artistic relevance to the Game, and does not explicitly mislead consumers as to the source or content of the Game... they are entitled... to a First Amendment defense."
Play Pen Vs. Pig Pen
The longform summary of the case reveals further details, explaining that: "The Play Pen is a strip club located on the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles... The Play Pen's "logo" consists of the words "the Play Pen"... and the words "Totally Nude" displayed in publicly available font, with a silhouette of a nude female dancer inside the stem of the first "P"."
It continues: "The neighborhood of "East Los Santos" is the Game's version of East Los Angeles... strip clubs, taco stands, and warehouse-type architecture are found in this area of downtown Los Angeles... one of the businesses located in East Los Santos is a virtual, cartoon-style strip club known as the "Pig Pen"."
The crux of the matter seems to be the claim that, although "The [Rockstar North] artists used the photographs of the Play Pen and various other East Los Angeles locations to design aspects of the Pig Pen", they "changed the names, building designs and overall look and feel of the locations... to make them fit the virtual, cartoon-style world of San Andreas and the series' irreverent tone."
Games - Not Strip Clubs!
The defendants in the case conducted a survey of 503 players of San Andreas. They were shown a screenshot of the Pig Pen and asked what, if anything, the image called to mind. 16 mentioned "the Play Pen", while 27 said the Pig Pen was a generic strip club. Five thought that the Pig Pen was endorsed by, sponsored by, or affiliated with the Play Pen.
Further differentiating the products, the ruling comments: "Strip clubs and video games are not related products. The Play Pen is a public establishment, where food and refreshments are served and live nude dancers perform. Video games such as San Andreas are generally played at home, sitting in front of a screen."
So how did Rockstar win the case? Apparently by proving that First Amendment protection applies in this case. A cited case in the ruling was MCA Records' lawsuit involving the catchy Aqua techno song 'Barbie Girl', in which it was ruled: "Trademark rights do not entitle the owner to quash an unauthorized use of the mark by another who is communicating ideas or expressing points of view."
The Courts' Conclusion
Overall, it was noted of GTA's Pig Pen strip club: "Any visual work that seeks to offer an artistic commentary on a particular subject must use identifiable features of that subject so that the commentary will be understood and appreciated by the consumer."
This fact, alongside the fact that the court ruled that the parody did "not explicitly mislead as to the source or content of the work" - referencing the survey of GTA players, who largely did not believe that the Play Pen club was involved in the game, a summary judgment ruling the case in Rockstar's favor was given.
Rockstar was successfully defended by Karin Pagnanelli, an attorney from Los Angeles firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, who prepared the brief on behalf of Rockstar Games.
[An amusing aside: Nikolas Taylor, the Lead Map Artist for the Los Santos section of the game, testified that he and other artists changed elements because they wanted to create "a fictional city that lampooned the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles", but he "agreed, however, that he did not choose the word 'Pig' because he wanted to parody strip patrons, or because he found anything humorous about pigs."]
July 17, 2006
By TROY ANDERSON, Staff Writer
A judge Monday denied a request by Los Angeles city officials to shut down the Frisky Kitty adult cabaret in Tarzana for allegedly being located too close to a residential zone.
"First of all, I'm happy because we prevailed," said Kitty owner Jamal Haddad. "I run a clean business. That's why I won. The judge advised (the city) not to try something different, but I don't think they are going to listen. We are going to go to trial and I think we are going to prevail again."
City Attorney's office spokesman Jonathan Diamond said the city is trying to get the business to conform to zoning laws.
"And so it's important to note that the judge in her ruling did acknowledge there was a zoning code violation there," Diamond said. "We are reviewing what our options are. We will get our relief. It's just a question of how. But ultimately, we'll get there."
City officials have been trying to shut down the nude-dancing club on Oxnard Street for eight years. Last winter, the City Council ordered City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to shut it down.
Last month, the city filed a lawsuit against the business alleging it was violating city zoning laws by being located within 500 feet of residential areas. Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs denied the city's request for a temporary restraining order to close the business. On Monday, she denied the city's request for a preliminary injunction.
Haddad has counter-sued the city, alleging the zoning ordinance is unconstitutional. Both suits are expected to go to trial later this year.
If Haddad wins at trial, his Santa Monica attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, estimates taxpayers will end up paying $100,000 to $150,000 in legal costs.
"The trouble is the taxpayers will end up paying," he said. "And people wonder why our taxes are so high. Why there are so many potholes. Nobody understands how much money is wasted."
The issue boils down to how the city measures the distance between the strip club and the nearest residences.
Under the way the city measures it, the club is within 500 feet of homes. But under other cities' measurements, the club is more than 500 feet from homes, Roger Diamond said.
"The municipal code is silent on how you measure," he said.
In the meantime, Councilman Dennis Zine said regardless of what Delgadillo decides to do next, a conclusion needs to be reached on whether zoning laws are going to be enforced.
"If zoning laws are not going to be enforced due to the court decision then I believe many communities will be highly enraged," Zine said, adding that more legislation might be needed to decide what can go in certain areas "so you don't have a landfill next to a preschool or a bar next to a nursery school."
July 10, 2006
By Priscilla Rodriguez
The complaint alleges the city and police systematically obstructed Taboo Gentlemen's Club's business and violated the rights of club staff.
The club says in the suit that police turned away several dancers seeking licenses to perform when they applied during regular business hours . The club says officers then shut down the club and arrested an owner and a dancer for license violations.
City Councilman John Wuo says he hasn't seen the suit, but that the city and police have been evenhanded in their treatment of the club.
Another Taboo club won a two million dollar settlement against the city of Anaheim in a suit filed there in 2004.
May 31, 2006
By RICK ORLOV, Staff Writer
Renewing efforts to close a Reseda adult club, Councilman Dennis Zine won support Tuesday for a study to determine whether the Frisky Kitty is violating city zoning laws.
The 13-0 vote ordering a report by the Department of Building and Safety came as the attorney for the club at 18454 Oxnard St. said Zine's continued threats are "political grandstanding."
"He's doing this only for politics," said attorney Roger Diamond, who represents the club. "The Frisky Kitty has nine lives. It's been open for six years now and it will continue to stay open."
Zine, who has tried to close the club since his election in 2001, said his efforts are designed to uphold city zoning laws that restrict the locations of adult entertainment.
"This is strictly a zoning matter," Zine said. "If we don't enforce our zoning laws, we would have chaos when it comes to planning and where certain buildings can be located."
Zine said the club is too close to a residential area and that there have been repeated crime problems associated with its operation.
But Diamond and club owner Jamal Haddad said the city has changed how it measures distances, and the club has provided extra security for the area.
"We are operating legally," Haddad said. "We follow all the rules. What the city is doing is violating my constitutional rights by trying to change the rules. All they are doing is costing the taxpayers money."
Diamond said he will review the Department of Building and Safety report to the City Council and is prepared to take additional steps to block closure of the club.
May 30, 2006
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles City Council reversed a decision Tuesday to shut down a topless bar in the San Fernando Valley after lawyers for the city told the Council they had no legal say in whether the business was open or closed.
The council agreed on Jan. 31 to enforce a court-ordered closure of Dino's Victory House, also known as the Frisky Kitty, for violating a city ordinance prohibiting adult businesses within 500 feet of a residential zone.
However, city lawyers recently advised the Council that they could not direct the City Attorney's Office to close to the bar.
"The city attorney has the authority in this matter, and it was not ever vested in the City Council," Deputy City Attorney Claudia Culling said. "So all we're doing is cleaning up the record by your retracting the part of the motion that purported to tell us how to exercise that discretion."
The City Attorney's Office said that it is moving forward with plans to close the Tarzana business, located at 18454 Oxnard St., which operated as a bikini bar before going nude about two years ago.
The city asked the bar owner to relocate the business, but he took the matter to court, alleging the city's codes violated the operator's constitutional rights.
A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city, and an appeals court upheld the decision last Nov. 8.
The bar has remained open, despite court orders to shut it down.
May 12, 2006
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - The city of San Bernardino owes a strip club one-point-four million dollars for losses the venue suffered when officials tried to shut it down.A state appellate court has affirmed a jury's decision to award the damages to the all-nude venue, the Flesh Club.
The club's owner's attorney Roger Jon Diamond says the city is also liable for interest on the verdict, as well as attorney's fees and interest on the attorney's fees.
He's calling the verdict "a major victory" for everybody, since it shows that "state immunity laws are trumped by the federal civil-rights act."
The appellate court already had upheld a trial court's ruling that the zoning ordinance the city used to prohibit nude dancing at the club from 1995 to 1999 was unconstitutional.
But the city had argued that it was immune from paying for the club's lost profits.
May 9, 2006
POMONA - Today the Pomona Lewis Business Park is a cluster of 45 sedate buildings that house engineering, warehousing and industrial businesses. All the more reason they may not be ready for one with plenty of neon, lap dances and skin.
"It's going to impact our property values," said Mike Starr, president of the Pomona Lewis Business Association. Aside from that, "it's going to bring a negative element here."
Starr and other business owners attended this week's Pomona City Council meeting and objected to the proposed opening of the strip club, Barely Legal, at the park on Pomona Boulevard.
"These are all respectable businesses that are in manufacturing," Starr told the council. "Is there something we can do?"
Starr said he first learned of the adult business's interest in opening when a representative of the property management firm that handles day-to-day business for the association called in April. A representative of the club had submitted plans for exterior changes to one of the buildings for the review and approval of the association, Starr said. The improvements call for the addition of 30-inch lettering on the building and neon.
Since then, property owners have met with representatives of the club along with Councilman George Hunter and the Pomona police, Starr said.
The owner of Barely Legal also owns Babydolls, an adult cabaret on Holt Avenue near Fairplex Drive.
Roger Jon Diamond, attorney for Steve Kozub, said his client is interested in opening at the Pomona Boulevard site because the city said he must move out of the Holt Avenue location.
When Babydolls opened in 1998, the city granted the permits needed to open in what Diamond described as a "former dilapidated vacant building."
"At the time it was the only (place) where you could lawfully open" an adult business, Diamond said.
The city, he said, later changed the zoning for the area.
City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said the zoning regulations were "antiquated" and required updating.
That triggered a legal battle that has resulted in an appeals court ruling that favored the city and declaring Babydolls is out of compliance with zoning regulations, he said.
The matter went on to the state Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case, allowing the appeals court decision to stand, Alvarez-Glasman said.
Under that update an adult business could not open within 1,000 feet of what are called sensitive uses which include residential areas, parks, churches and schools, Alvarez-Glasman said. Since then the city has increased the distance between sensitive uses and adult businesses to 1,250 feet.
Diamond said that because Babydolls must move off Holt Avenue, his client found a place at the Pomona Boulevard industrial park that meets the zoning regulations and purchased it.
The area is zoned general industrial, Planning Manager Matthew Bassi said. Adult businesses can generally locate in such areas because the areas are usually away from sensitive uses, he said.
Park building owners say the area is no place for a strip club and worry that even though the club wouldn't serve alcohol, patrons might drink outside.
Other business members are concerned about having such a business when they encourage family members to come on-site for company activities.
Diamond said his client's preference would be to stay on Holt rather than move to Pomona Boulevard.
"What we're saying is don't be mad at us. It's the fault of the city," Diamond said.
"Nobody complains (about Babydolls). Everybody likes it there," Diamond said.
Hunter said Diamond may not think people aren't unhappy with the presence of Babydolls but they do exist.
"They don't call him with their complaints," said Hunter, who represents the area where the club exists now and where it could end up.
Residents, businesses and churches have complained about the presence of the club for reasons that range from the moral to the bad light such a business casts on the city.
The Holt Avenue location has as its neighbors a number of stores and fast-food businesses, and to the north on Orange Grove Avenue is a large residential area.
Business owners have complained about scantily clad dancers from the club coming into their shops, Hunter said.
While such businesses may have the right to exist, they aren't something that add to the city, he said.
"Barely Legal doesn't exactly scream family values," Hunter said.
Diamond said if anything, his client has taken a deteriorated building and improved the area. And if permitted to stay permanently on Holt, additional improvements will be made.
All the city has to do is make changes to the zoning regulations so Babydolls is in compliance, he said.
"They're the rule makers. They can stop this," Diamond said.
But Alvarez-Glasman said that can't happen.
"What he's basically asking the city is to violate its own laws, and the city's not about to do that," Alvarez-Glasman said.
On May 16, the city will go to Los Angeles Superior Court seeking an order to force Babydolls to close the Holt Avenue site, Alvarez-Glasman said.
Monica Rodriguez can be reached by e-mail at m_rodriguezor by phone at (909)