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Maryland Strip Clubs File Suit

Maryland- Strip clubs in Prince George’s County have filed a federal lawsuit to void restrictions — including one that forbids dancers from mingling with patrons — that took effect last week. Showcase Theater in Beltsville and two other clubs that are suing the county say the rules are unconstitutional. The clubs are “subjected to seriously burdensome restrictions that are not imposed on other nightclubs, taverns, theaters, amusements or stores,” said the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Earlier this year, a community effort stopped a Hyattsville strip club from moving to the outskirts of Laurel. The lawsuit says the clubs provide a “forum for the presentation of exotic-dance performances that incorporate the expressive communication of messages with an emphasis on a healthy sexuality.” Luke Lirot, attorney for the clubs, said last week he also plans to file a motion to keep the county from enforcing the new rules. He said enforcement should wait “until the courts can decide the constitutionality of it.” County officials declined to comment. The county enacted restrictions on strip clubs in 2003, but the legislation faltered after the clubs sued. Also part of the lawsuit filed last Tuesday are the Nico Banquet Hall in Camp Springs and Bazz and Crue in Forestville. The clubs say they are concerned about frequent shutdowns for questionable violations. The lawsuit says the banquet hall was ordered shut down one time because there was no toilet paper in a women’s restroom. New zoning and licensing requirements also take effect today. Dancers will have to pay $200 for licenses, and clubs must close at 1 a.m. Among other new restrictions, dancers must be on stages at least 18 inches high and performances must be at least six feet from customers.

The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages and recovery of legal fees. Prince George’s County Council Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga sponsored the legislation that led to the new restrictions. Mr. Dernoga also opposed the Hyattsville strip club’s transfer of its liquor license to a club on the outskirts of Laurel. The county’s liquor board granted the owners of the Stardust Inn in Hyattsville permission to move the license to a new location, at the former Club Amazon on Route 1 near Laurel. The planned location was next to a church. The owners, Hyo Myung Enterprises Inc., dropped their plans after community leaders and local, county and state elected officials voiced opposition.

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