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Cheetah Strip club sues Hallandale Beach

Hallandale Beach – from – The owner of the now-closed Cheetah Hallandale Beach has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, arguing that the strip club’s business licenses were wrongfully revoked.

City Manager Mike Good’s decision to pull the Cheetah’s four occupational licenses is an attack on owner Joe Rodriguez’s First Amendment right to free expression, according to the lawsuit. The Cheetah is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the city from enforcing the license revocations.

“The City’s actions can only be described as a crude display of unchecked power,” the Cheetah’s attorneys, Luke Lirot and Steven Mason, wrote in their Sept. 18 request to U.S. District Judge William Zloch.

The strip club closed six months ago after state authorities and local police raided it after an undercover investigation into sex-for-money and drugs. Rodriguez has said he wants to put the property on the market, after agreeing with the state in May to sell the club’s liquor license.

But if he loses the business licenses, whoever buys the property will not be able to operate under the 2002 deal the Cheetah struck with the city, which allowed it to offer nude dancing, according to Cheetah’s court filings.

The city negotiated the agreement after the Cheetah filed a federal lawsuit that claimed the city’s zoning restrictions on adult entertainment were unconstitutional. The Cheetah had been the city’s sole adult entertainment establishment.

The federal lawsuit marks yet another development surrounding the Cheetah raid. Even though 18 arrests were made the night of the March 7, authorities say the criminal inquiry into the strip club continues.

Rodriguez threatened legal action this month against the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) if the agency does not return four digital video recorders seized from the Cheetah. State agents got a search warrant to take the recorders after telling a judge that cameras were secretly taping people in the VIP rooms and bathrooms.

In addition, there’s a separate criminal inquiry into potential evidence tampering related to the Cheetah case. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is assisting ABT with that investigation.

In June, Good sent a letter to Rodriguez, notifying him that the strip club’s occupational licenses were being pulled because the business threatened “the health, safety and welfare of the City’s residents.” Good said the Cheetah was a public nuisance.

Mayor Joy Cooper declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said she stood by the city’s current restrictions on adult entertainment.

While the Cheetah had “free rein” because of its agreement with the city, anyone else who wants to open up such a business will have to abide by Hallandale Beach’s current adult entertainment laws, she said.

Cheetah’s lawyers did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

In court documents, the attorneys argue that the city’s current laws governing adult entertainment are so harsh that a new strip club would not be able to operate unless it could inherit the special treatment grandfathered into the Cheetah’s business licenses. The city also failed to give proper notice that the licenses were about to be pulled, the Cheetah’s legal team claimed.

“The Cheetah has not only lost its right to offer a form of entertainment afforded First Amendment protection, but the loss of the licenses has imposed a great financial and business hardship and will result in significant devaluation of the real property,” according to the Cheetah’s court filings.


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