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Published: Saturday, 12/7/2002

Strip club challenges denial of occupancy

The fight over whether a Maumee strip club can open its doors has landed in court.

H. Louis Sirkin, a high-profile free-speech attorney from Cincinnati, filed a motion yesterday in U.S. District Court on behalf of the XO club, Dussel Drive and Holland Road, that seeks to force Maumee officials to issue an occupancy permit.

Judge John Potter will conduct a hearing Monday on the motion for a temporary restraining order.

“I think they're acting abusively,” Mr. Sirkin said of Maumee officials after he filed his motion.

Mr. Sirkin, an attorney for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, additionally filed a lawsuit against the city that asks the court to declare Maumee's new sexually oriented business statute unconstitutional. The suit also asks for an unspecified amount of money for damages and legal fees.

Maumee has refused to issue the club an occupancy permit until its managers state specifically what type of “live entertainment” it will offer.

Mr. Sirkin said the city doesn't require other businesses to make specific declarations about their use before issuing an occupancy permit. The city's actions, he said, amount to prior restraint of free speech, a violation of the First Amendment.

Sheilah McAdams, Maumee's law director, said the city is not violating constitutional rights. It just isn't going to allow the club to open if it's going to be in violation of the city's sexually oriented business ordinance, she said.

“We have a right to get the information we need in order to make this determination,” Ms. McAdams said. “[Building inspectors] have to certify that use is allowed in that zoning district.”

The ordinance, passed in June, allows adult businesses in areas zoned for heavy industry, but bans them everywhere else. XO is in a busy commercial district.

No mystery really exists about the nature of the club's business. An undercover police operation shut it down Nov. 22 after it opened unexpectedly without an occupancy permit. Police said scantily clad women danced on a stage in the middle of the bar and topless lap dances performed in more secluded areas of XO.

Ms. McAdams said the entertainment did not comply with the city's sexually oriented business ordinance, which was passed in June - three days after Halo Ventures, Inc., the Las Vegas corporation that is running the club, applied for a building permit.

Mr. Sirkin said the city's denial of the occupancy permit prejudges XO before it can demonstrate compliance.

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