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City of Seattle sued on allegations that foot-dragging is preventing Aurora strip club from opening

from – Asserting that the City of Seattle has violated his rights to free expression, a would-be strip club proprietor has filed a federal lawsuit accusing city officials of dragging their feet in permitting the Aurora Avenue club.

In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle last week, attorneys for businessman Robert Davis claim the city Department of Planning and Development has nearly derailed his effort to install an adult cabaret at the longtime home of Cindy’s Pancake House.

Though the city had issued Davis’ company, ATL Corp., a license to operate the club at the 10507 Aurora Ave. N. facility, officials with the department have now denied a building permit that would enable him to do so, his attorney Kristin Olson said. Such a move amounts to the same type of unequal treatment that previously caused a federal judge to throw out the city strip club ordinance in 2005.

According to filings in the case, Davis had been struggling for more than 17 months to get a decision from the city on whether he could remodel the single-story building to accommodate adult entertainment.

“This arbitrary and capricious behavior by the City violates ATL’s right to freedom of expression,” Olson said in court documents. “The City is supposed to investigate before issuing an adult entertainment license.”

“Here,” she added, “the City issued the adult entertainment license, but is now preventing ATL from operating the adult cabaret by refusing to make a decision.”

Shortly after filing the suit, he received the city’s answer — no.

In a letter dated Sept. 1, land use supervisor Andrew S. McKim denied Davis’ application to remodel the pancake house due to its proximity to a church and a long-shuttered strip club.

According to the letter, city restrictions prohibit new strip clubs within 800 feet of any school, including, apparently, a small school operated by the Northgate Baptist Church located 742 feet east of the pancake house.

Also cited in the letter was the former location of the Dancing Bear strip club, a former adult theater that apparently hasn’t featured nude dancers since the early 1990s. The property, though, remains licensed with the city and could be lawfully reopened; such a move, McKim said in the letter, would violate a prohibition on strip clubs operating within 600 feet of each other.

Reached for comment, a Department of Planning and Development spokesman declined to comment on the pending litigation. The city has not yet filed a response with the court.

Some on Aurora Avenue are celebrating the city’s action, though, with one neighborhood activist telling the blog that neighbors were “relieved and pleased.”

Olson said Davis will be addressing the city’s move in future legal actions.

The suit marks the second serious challenge to the city’s strip club rules since they were heavily revised following a 2005 federal court ruling finding the restrictions to be unconstitutional.

In June, a King County Superior Court judge found in favor of the Déjà Vu strip club chain, which hopes to open a club near Safeco Field. An attorney for the club owners, Peter Buck, lauded the ruling at the time, saying it showed business owners could be treated fairly regardless of their industry.

“It means that an operation such as my client’s can rely on the law as it is written,” Buck said in June. “This law isn’t about someone’s moral values.”

That ruling has since been appealed by the Mariners baseball club.

Attorneys for the city are expected to file a response to Davis’ suit in coming weeks. A trial date has not yet been set.


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