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Imperial Showgirls Strip club in Pico Rivera closed for good

PICO RIVERA – from www.whittierdailynews.com – An all-nude strip club in Pico Rivera has shuttered its doors after a long legal battle, officials said.

Imperial Showgirls closed Sept. 1 as part of a settlement agreement with the city, officials said.

A U.S. District court in 2004 ruled that the city’s policies were too restrictive and violated the constitutional rights of club owners, officials said. The city settled with owner Leroy Smith for nearly $100,000 in legal fees and the right to operate until Sept. 1 of this year.

“Their claim was that the zoning ordinance was too strict,” said Pico Rivera spokesman Mike Maxfield. “The city and Imperial Showgirls engaged in a legal battle over whether the code was too restrictive and the final ruling was that the city’s zoning was too restrictive.”

The club opened in 2002 and generated an uproar in the community.

Protesters picketed the entrance of the club, with Pastor Richard Ochoa of the Lord’s Vineyard Fellowship leading a group that camped out for 18 months until they were ordered off the property.

Ochoa expressed joy Tuesday at news the club was closed.

“I’m very thrilled that this establishment doesn’t exist in this city anymore,” he said. “This was a real blight in the midst of our city.”

But Showgirls attorney Roger Jon Diamond said the business wasn’t a nuisance to residents or the community.

“As far as we know the business never caused any problems with the city although technically it wasn’t in conformity with the zoning codes,” Diamond said.

In the end, because the city lost its court battle, the ordeal may have left it more vulnerable to challenges to its zoning codes by future adult businesses.

“I think the city would prefer not to have a business like this anywhere, but given the fact it has to allow it someplace, this is the most appropriate location,” he said, of the club’s former address on Slauson Avenue. “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that strip clubs are protected by the First Amendment and cities may zone where these types of businesses can operate as long as they can prove their zoning codes are not unduly restrictive.”

He said Smith was satisfied with the settlement and was able to operate for years without interference from the city, as long as he followed laws and regulations.

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