The owner of a controversial Rockdale striptease club was ordered yesterday to pay $33,000 in fines, and faces 90 days in jail if he continues to operate the club, which caused an uproar when it opened last May.
Baltimore District Judge Kathleen M. Sweeney found Dominic Stenti, owner of Body Talk, guilty of violating Baltimore County's zoning and building codes when he opened a striptease club in the 8100 block of Liberty Road at the site of a former pool hall.
Mr. Stenti and the two corporations he established, 8119 Liberty Road Inc. and Domel Inc., were ordered to pay the civil and criminal fines. Mr. Stenti also was sentenced to a 90-day suspended jail term.
Judge Sweeney said Mr. Stenti could remain free on the condition that he meet all county codes in operating any future enterprises. He also was placed on two years' supervised probation.
After a two-hour hearing yesterday, Judge Sweeney also found a former associate in the business, Michele Higgs, guilty of three zoning violations and fined her $2,100.
The owners of the building, Alfred and Caroline Bucci, were found guilty of three zoning violations and fined a total of $900, said Nancy West, assistant county solicitor.
Mr. Stenti will appeal the ruling in Baltimore County Circuit Court and will likely reopen Body Talk in the weeks ahead, said Karl Goodman, Mr. Stenti's attorney.
But County Attorney Arnold Jablon said Mr. Stenti faces the possibility of serving time in jail if he continues to operate and the guilty verdict is upheld.
"We know that he could reopen, but the ruling is still a victory," said William Obriecht, president of the Liberty Road Community Council, which fought to close the club.
Mr. Jablon said the club violated county codes, because Mr. Stenti never obtained the permits necessary to change its use from a pool hall to a striptease club.
Mr. Goodman argued that his client is entitled to a building permit and that his use of the property does not violate county zoning codes.
"The legal question is, what is a nightclub? Our position is that this is a nightclub and it's a permitted use," he said.
Mr. Stenti has been charging patrons a $10 membership fee for admission to the club, which featured nude dancing. Alcohol was not sold, but patrons were allowed to bring their own liquor.
Shortly after the club opened May 21, the community began complaining to county officials about the excessive noise, public drunkenness, parking problems and littering. A public hearing before the County Council in August brought out about 100 neighbors.
The outcry prompted the council to pass legislation that effectively ordered the operation to shut down within a year. The law banned striptease clubs that operated without liquor licenses within 1,000 feet of a home, church, park, child-care center or school.