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Bar Fights for Naked Karaoke

NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut — A New Britain Superior Court judge heard brief arguments this week as to whether a Berlin bar owner should face misdemeanor charges if he hosts “naked karaoke” at his establishment, a violation of town ordinances.

Berlin town attorneys submitted a written legal brief to the court Tuesday to oppose Marvin St. Pierre’s claims that he should not be subject to penalties for violating the town’s “sexually oriented business” ordinances by offering “naked karaoke night” at his bar, Berlin Station Café, 845 Farmington Ave.

In November, St. Pierre’s attorney, David Koskoff, a co-owner of the café, filed suit against Berlin.

He claimed its ordinance for sexually oriented businesses purports more severe penalties than those allowed by state statute for violating a municipal ordinance.

In regard to Berlin’s sexually oriented business regulations, any person found in violation will be ordered to pay a fine of no more than $100 and “shall further be subject to arrest on a misdemeanor charge.”

Koskoff believes the ordinance is void because state statute requires only a maximum fine of $100 for the type of municipal infraction involved with this case.

St. Pierre alleged the town’s penalties involved after breaking the ordinance are too vague because it appears to make the consequences more severe than those that the state deemed fit for such a violation.

The town says that St. Pierre’s café violates the regulation because it could qualify as a sexually oriented business, but is not permitted to be one at this point.

“Our declaratory judgment is looking for the court to rule that my client will not face criminal charges if a naked karaoke night is held on the premises,” Koskoff said.

“Right now, nothing has happened yet; he is being careful not to violate the ordinance pending determination by a judge.”

Robert Weber Jr., Berlin town attorney, outlined in his brief the validity of the “sexually oriented business” ordinance in allowing the town to regulate the “health, safety and welfare” of its citizens.

According to Weber, St. Pierre has yet to apply for a permit to conduct the naked singing contest, but rather has sought to challenge a portion of the penalty provision within the ordinance. Weber said municipal police officers can arrest a citizen, such as St. Pierre, for violating state law.

A judge allotted Koskoff one week to submit a written brief in response to paperwork the town filed with the court Tuesday.

If Koskoff is inclined to respond, Berlin attorneys would be granted an additional week to provide the court with a rebuttal.

The judge would then render a decision on the case, but no date is set.

The suit stems from a sign St. Pierre first posted for naked karaoke as a joke outside the Berlin Station Café in October.

The false advertisement reportedly drew an enormous response from the public, which then prompted the suit after town officials warned St. Pierre he would not be permitted to conduct the contest the sign advertises.

Koskoff remained tight-lipped as to whether St. Pierre will actually hold a naked karaoke night if the judge rules in his favor.

Presently, the bar does offer “pajama karaoke” on Friday and Saturday nights, which encourages participants and onlookers alike to wear pajamas or underwear for the event.



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