Club with nude dancing slips into robe of privacy But state says it's in violation

June 29, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

An assistant attorney general says Good Guys, a bring-your-own-booze club offering nude dancing in North Laurel, is a public establishment and violates a state law prohibiting such businesses.

Del. Martin Madden, a Republican who represents Howard County and the Laurel area of Prince George's County, said he requested an opinion from the attorney's general's office to determine whether Good Guys is in violation of a law prohibiting patrons from taking alcoholic beverages into public establishments offering nude dancing or sexually oriented entertainment.

The law is effective in Howard and in three other counties.

"As far as I'm concerned it's good-bye Good Guys," said Mr. Madden, referring to Good Guys Bar & Grill in North Laurel.

Thomas Meachum, an Ellicott City lawyer representing Good Guys, said, "It's a private club now, so it doesn't come under the law."

Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe, who provides legal counsel to the General Assembly, concluded yesterday in a letter to Mr. Madden, that Good Guys' membership fee does not qualify it as a private club -- a distinction that would have shielded it from the law.

Good Guys' owner could face fines of up to $5,000 for each day the establishment is found in violation of the law.

"Nude dancing is not necessarily sexually oriented," said Good Guys owner, Benham Zangenah, who also operates the 1720 Club, a topless bar in Washington.

"It's a form of expression and it's protected by the freedom of speech."

Mr. Zangenah turned in his liquor license Thursday, saying he was changing the restaurant-bar to a private club offering nude dancing. Liquor would not be served, though patrons could bring in their own, said Mr. Zangenah.

The club format was launched the same day, and so far, he has accepted 500 memberships, he said.

The establishment is open from 11 a.m. until 3 a.m. Patrons are required to buy a $10 annual membership, and they must pay a $10 fee each time they patronize the establishment.

"The response has just been incredible and we haven't placed one ad. Everyone is singing and clapping and having a good time. A lot of people like to watch dancing -- nothing further will happen," Mr. Zangenah said.

Mr. Madden said he requested the legal opinion because he was convinced that Good Guys is in violation of the law, which the Howard County delegation sponsored in the 1992 General Assembly session.

"This kind of place will attract a certain element that we don't want in the county. It is very clearly under the scope of the law," said Mr. Madden.

Mr. Zangenah said he decided to turn in the liquor license for Good Guys and move to a club format because he believed at least two members of the County Council, which serves as the Liquor Control Board in Howard County, were "biased against us."

"Eventually they wanted to shut us down. When you have people like that what else can you do? I have an investment here and employees to think of."

In April, the board fined Good Guys $1,000 and suspended its license for seven days for allowing women to dance obscenely and perform with private areas of the body exposed. County police also have requested a legal opinion regarding Good Guys' status as a private club or public establishment from the county state's attorney.

Sgt. Gary Gardner, a county police spokesman, said officers visited Good Guys Friday to confirm for the Liquor Board that all alcoholic beverages had been removed.

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