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East Pasadena buys Peppermint Garden’s property

PASADENA – [Pasadena Star] City Hall is slipping a big tip to strip-club owner Greg Hakopyan to get him out of East Pasadena.

Changing city codes didn’t prevent Peppermint Gardens from opening briefly in December, and taking its owner to court was going to be a longshot.

So taxpayers will prevent Hakopyan’s adult cabaret from reopening with nearly $5 million paid by the city to settle litigation and buy the property under a negotiated settlement.

“We’re getting a valuable piece of property, which we’ll market in the near future for a use that is contributory to the economic vitality of that immediate area,” said Mayor Bill Bogaard.

One year, three lawsuits and an election season later, the former pizzeria will become public property once escrow closes.

“We recognized this was going to be a pretty long and drawn- out litigation,” said Deputy City Attorney Javan Rad, adding that it was a good value for the city because it staved off further litigation from Hakopyan and brought a valuable property into the city’s possession.

The settlement figure was a “blended amount” that included the property value and litigation settlement, Rad said.

Hakopyan was represented by lawyer Roger Diamond, who has made a name for himself by winning many legal battles against cities over the rights of adult businesses to operate in the Southland.

Diamond said he’d have been happy to pursue further litigation against Pasadena and challenge the legality of its new adult ordinance, but said his client was very pleased with the outcome.

“He did very little work and made a profit of about a million-and-a-half dollars,” Diamond said.

City Hall slapped a moratorium on adult businesses after Hakopyan applied to open his club last year.

When the City Council rushed through new rules in December that would have prevented the club from operating, Hakopyan opened the club in defiance before the new code went into effect.

Hakopyan sued the city; the city sued Hakopyan.

The city’s efforts were dealt a major setback when Superior Court Judge Jan Pluim indicated he was “troubled by” Pasadena’s handling of the matter and ruled the club could indeed operate.

Cities can’t change their rules to zone undesirable tenants out of business, and Pluim was skeptical of the city’s claim its changes were unrelated to Hakopyan’s application.

After a group of neighbors organized to oppose the club, it became one of several issues to dog the re-election bid of Councilman Steve Haderlein, who represents East Pasadena.

“It’s a great day for Pasadena,” said Haderlein, who narrowly defeated his well-funded challenger in the March election. “Cost to settle litigation: $1 million. Cost to buy the property: $3.8 million. Cost to protect Pasadena’s neighborhoods: priceless.”

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