Less than a week after Body Talk owner Dominic Stenti agreed to stop featuring nude dancing at his Rockdale club by July 10, Stenti has agreed to close the business in the 8100
block of Liberty Road.
H. Emslie Parks, the Baltimore County attorney, said his office had reached an agreement in which Stenti would immediately close the controversial club, in exchange for the county suggesting Stenti pay less than the $10,000 he was fined last week.
Parks, who said the whole deal is subject to the approval of
Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge James Smith, declined to say how much less Stenti will have to pay in fines.
"Our primary objective all along was to close them up," Parks said yesterday. "That's what the neighborhood wanted and this is what we accomplished."
According to Alfred Bucci, the owner of the building where Body Talk was rented, Stenti had the pool tables and other equipment removed on Monday.
Since then, Bucci has had workmen inside cleaning the place up and removing the last vestiges of Body Talk, including a painted picture of a scantily clad woman on the window facing Liberty Road.
"It's reverting back to what it was for the last 22 years, which is a family pool hall," said Bucci, who added that he was glad the whole episode is over.
Stenti first rented the pool hall from Bucci in early 1990, then closed the business temporarily, reopening as a private club called Body Talk a year ago.
Patrons who paid the $10 club "membership" fee were admitted through an electronic security door, where they could sit at tables watching women dance and strip to loud music on a T-shaped stage.
Because he had no liquor license, Stenti was not allowed to serve alcohol, but did allow people to bring their own alcoholic beverages inside.
A storm of community protest, including numerous pickets, convinced the Baltimore County Council and the General Assembly to pass new laws aimed at hindering the Body Talk operation.
The first, passed by the Council last August, banned nude dancing within 1,00 feet of a church, school or residence. That law would have impacted Body Talk this August.
The other law, signed by the governor a month ago as an emergency measure, made it illegal for Stenti to allow nude dancing and the consumption of alcohol at the same time.
Until the settlement was announced last week, it appeared that Stenti might try to wage a court battle to protect his strip club. His attorney, Harold I. Glaser, had filed an appeal of building code and zoning violations, based on the idea that nude dancing is a protected form of free speech.
But the free speech issue evaporated when Stenti agreed to stop nude dancing as of July 10. In exchange, county officials dropped numerous counts of building code and zoning violations.
Bill Obriecht, the former president of the Liberty Community Council and a leader in the protest against Body Talk, said yesterday he was glad the strip club has finally closed.
But Obriecht, who noted that Stenti has rented space at two nearby locations on Liberty Road, said he is wary about lowering the $10,000 fine if it means it will enable Stenti to open something similar to Body Talk nearby.
"I personally would be glad to see that Dominic Stenti has left the area," Obriecht said. "This is because of the anguish he has caused the area."