Strip club on trial on new charges Body Talk fights county

October 24, 1990|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

A Baltimore County building inspector testified that the Body Talk strip tease club in Rockdale violated its building permit by putting nude dancers on a platform that was too large.

A consultant for the club testified that Body Club is not a nightclub, but a billiards club that should be permitted in its zoning category.

They were two of 10 witnesses who took the stand yesterday in District Court in Towson for the second criminal trial of Body Talk club owners Dominic Stenti and Michele Lee Higgs, who allegedly violated building and zoning codes.

In July, a District Court judge convicted Stenti and Higgs of building code violations between May 21 and June 6 and fined them $8,000. They appealed that conviction.

While the appeal is pending, the owners have added five pool tables and reopened their club, contending the operation is legal now because it is a private billiards club.

Testimony yesterday showed that Stenti has sold 17,000 memberships since he opened Body Talk in May.

County officials have vowed to prosecute the owners until they shut down the strip tease operation.

Yesterday's hearing closed without a verdict from District Court Judge Kathleen M. Sweeney. Closing arguments are to be held in the near future.

Among the prosecution witnesses was Raymond S. Wisonom Jr., a fatherly-looking county building inspector with spectacles, who said the owners of the Body Talk club had violated their building permit by constructing a platform for the nude dancers that was larger than their permit specified.

In a voice reminiscent of Sgt. Joe Friday on "Dragnet," Wisonom said he visited the club several times and observed "continual female-type dancing of the strip variety."

"They would come out in a bikini, or maybe some cute outfit,

then during the course of the next two songs, they would disrobe," Wisonom said.

Under cross examination, Karl Goodman, attorney for Body Talk, asked Wisonom to elaborate on the type of cute outfits he saw.

Well, said Wisonom, there was a cowboy-type outfit and leopard skin outfit and some bathing suits that sparkled with iridescent colors.

"And which one did you like the best?" Goodman pressed.

Amid laughter from spectators and Judge Sweeney, Wisono stammered, went red in the face and muttered, "Well, um, I don't know."

During a full day of testimony, assistant county attorneys Nanc West and Timothy Kotroco called several witnesses, who described nude dancing taking place at the private club. Their witnesses also categorized the club in the 8100 block of Liberty Road as a nightclub, and thus an illegal operation in the commercial business area.

The elements of a nightclub include live entertainment, di lighting and the consumption of alcohol on the premises.

Goodman countered with a defense witness, Harold D. Hicks Jr. a consultant specializing in fire prevention and building codes, who testified that the operation is not a nightclub, but a private billiards club that happens to have nude dancing.

After Stenti was convicted of building code convictions las summer, he closed down Body Talk for a few days, then reopened with five pool tables set up inside.

Earlier, he had created an uproar among Rockdale residents when he closed his Al's Billiards business at the site, removed the pool tables, then reopened May 21 as Body Talk. He charges customers $10 admission and sells no alcohol, but provides snacks and soft drinks and allows customers to bring in their own liquor, making his business exempt from county Liquor Board control.

Besides returning pool tables to the business, Stenti also removed a T-shaped platform stage that county officials said was illegally constructed.

West is prosecuting Stenti and Higgs, along with the building's owners, Alfred and Caroline Bucci, for building code violations that allegedly took place between June 7 and July 21. Kotroco is prosecuting the same defendants for zoning violations from May 21 up until the present.

If convicted of the zoning charges, the defendants face penalties of $200 a day, per person, Kotroco said.

However, Stenti testified yesterday that the Buccis had nothing to do with his business and that Higgs had withdrawn as a partner in the business June 6.

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