Rockdale residents won their long and fervent battle to stop nude dancing at Body Talk yesterday when the nightclub's owner was fined $10,000 for liquor and building code violations and agreed to stop featuring striptease acts by July 10.
As part of a last-minute deal with Baltimore County attorneys, club owner Dominic Stenti was convicted of violating a new state law that prohibits customers from bringing alcohol to Body Talk, which has no liquor license.
Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr. also rejected Mr. Stenti's appeal of a previous conviction for violating building codes by failing to obtain a permit last May to change his pool hall in the 8100 block of Liberty Road to a private club featuring striptease.
Mr. Stenti will be allowed to continue operating a business at the location, which formerly housed a pool hall, but will have to pay a $10,000 fine.
The county also held over Mr. Stenti's head a number of other code violations, which were placed on the inactive docket but could be resurrected and prosecuted if the club owner violates the agreement.
"This had been a long ordeal, but I'm glad it's over," said William Obriecht, former president of the Liberty Road Community Council, although, he added, "I would have preferred that it close down tonight."
Mr. Stenti said few words during the proceeding, but afterward managed a slight smile. He even shook hands and offered to have lunch with a county attorney who, just moments before, had been his adversary.
Harold I. Glaser, Mr. Stenti's attorney, said that the end of striptease at Body Talk does not necessarily mean that nude dancing is wrong or that his client will no longer operate a business in the community.
"Pleading guilty to building and liquor code violation has nothing to do with nude dancing -- that's a right protected under the Constitution of the United States," the defense attorney said.
Mr. Glaser had argued in court that Mr. Stenti's crimes were not serious and that he should be given probation before judgment. That would have left him with no criminal record if he completed probation without further trouble.
Judge Smith disagreed.
The decision ends a yearlong battle for residents, who had complained that the club was an eyesore and its unruly patrons a nuisance. The club admitted people for a $10 "membership fee" per visit and allowed them to bring their own drinks.
Residents took their protest to the County Council, zoning board and even the General Assembly.
The outcry prompted the council to pass legislation last summer that effectively ordered the operation to shut down within a year. The law banned striptease clubs that operated without liquor licenses within1,000 feet of a home, church, park, child-care center or school.
The General Assembly also passed an emergency law this session that prohibited patrons from bringing alcohol to clubs that feature nude dancing but do not have a liquor license. The law was aimed at Body Talk and Charlotte's Fiesta Bar in Essex.