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More Bullshit in Louisville

Louisville, KY- A group of strip clubs and a liquor store have sued Louisville metro government, claiming that police and Alcoholic Beverage Control agents violated their constitutional rights when they broke into offices and employee lockers during a raid.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Jefferson Circuit Court, asks that two state laws and metro alcohol regulations be declared unconstitutional. It also seeks damages.

The lawsuit alleges that police conducting raids burst in, broke down doors, cut padlocks off employee lockers, and searched employees and customers.

The lawsuit doesn’t say when the raids occurred, but lawyer Mike Hatzell, who filed suit on behalf of the Thorobred Lounge, five other Thorobred clubs and By-Pass Liquors, said in an interview that they were in recent months.

The lawsuit notes that the U.S. Constitution prohibits unwarranted searches and contends that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there should be limits on government powers to oversee even “closely regulated” businesses, such as bars and liquor stores.

The lawsuit names metro government, Metro Police Chief Robert White and Bill Schreck, director of the metro Department of Inspections, Permits and Licenses, as defendants.

Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze said the lawsuit is just another of many attempts by adult-entertainment businesses to block enforcement of laws regulating them. Maze added that he was a bit “shocked” by the lawsuit since the laws being challenged have been in effect in some fashion for 20 or 30 years.

“This is what they do,” Maze said. “You file suit every chance you get and hope for the injunction. … If that’s the way it’s going to be done, fine, we’ll be ready.”

Adult-entertainment businesses have filed numerous lawsuits challenging local ordinances in recent years.

Hatzell said what’s at stake in the latest case is the question of whether government should be allowed to enter the businesses – including portions not open to the public – and conduct unannounced searches.

He said local regulations over the sale of alcohol do not properly limit the scope of the agents’ searches.

Schreck said yesterday that local laws give ABC agents more latitude in conducting such searches than officers would have while investigating businesses that don’t have alcohol licenses. The laws also allow agents to conduct searches anywhere on the premises, he said.

The lawsuit claims agents have entered the businesses “on multiple occasions” and in addition to breaking doors and padlocks, have broken into a panel for stage lights, and damaged file cabinets and the files in them.

In an affidavit supporting the lawsuit, Bert W. Williams Jr., who owns Phat’s, a strip club at Seventh Street and Broadway, claims police did the same at his club. Phat’s is not a plaintiff.

According to the affidavit, police entered Phat’s on Jan. 30, entered a private recording studio, searched nearly two dozen employees and customers, and “knocked off door locks.”

Hatzell said he believes police have been more zealous in their enforcement of the alcohol laws since they took over enforcement duty last year from the Department of Inspections, Permits and Licenses.

Alicia Smiley, a Metro Police spokeswoman, said the searches are conducted in accordance to state and federal law. She said she couldn’t comment on specific searches.

Maze said that if police did as Hatzell claims in the lawsuit, the case probably will be decided on whether there was “reasonable suspicion” for officers to break down doors and cut padlocks.

“Right now, I’m unaware what led the police to take these actions,” he said.

 

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