Club sues county officials over nude dancing rules Rights violated, Good Guys asserts

October 15, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The operators and two dancers at a North Laurel nude dancing club have filed suit against Howard County's police chief and state's attorney, contending that efforts to curb the club's operations violate their constitutional rights.

The parties want a U.S. District Court judge to issue an injunction that would prevent Police Chief James Robey and State's Attorney William R. Hymes from taking action against the club, Good Guys Bar & Grill on U.S. 1.

Behnam Zanganeh, owner of the club, contends in the suit filed Wednesday that steps he took as required by Chief Robey and Mr. Hymes to limit nudity at the establishment have cut into his business.

"Mr. Zanganeh wants to run his business without the threat of criminal prosecution," said Ransom Davis, a Baltimore attorney representing Good Guys. "Everything indicates he runs a very clean operation. It simply does not present a problem."

Mr. Hymes said he has not seen the suit, but said he is not surprised that it has been filed. Chief Robey could not be reached for comment.

In addition to Mr. Zanganeh, plaintiffs in the suit are listed as the club's manager, Frederick Scheler of Silver Spring, and two dancers, Deborah Viola of Fort Washington and Kim Lewandowski of Elkridge.

Mr. Zanganeh could not be reached for comment, and Mr. Scheler declined to comment.

Ms. Viola and Ms. Lewandowski say in the suit that they are being prevented from pursuing the rights to artistic self-expression. They could not be reached for comment.

The 15-page suit targets a state law that prohibits establishments from permitting both nude dancing and the consumption of alcohol in four Maryland counties -- Howard, Prince George's, Charles and Baltimore.

The plaintiffs argue in the suit that there is no "rational explanation" for a law that discriminates against businesses in just four of 23 Maryland counties.

The parties want the court to rule that Good Guys is a private club that is not subject to the law, the suit says.

Mr. Zanganeh and his employees say in the suit that the actions by Chief Robey and Mr. Hymes violate their constitutional rights to conduct a lawful business.

Good Guys, which opened in August 1991, surrendered its liquor license last summer after law enforcement officials put the club under close scrutiny.

Mr. Zanganeh reorganized Good Guys as a private club, requiring patrons to buy $10 annual memberships and pay $10 fees for each visit. Patrons are allowed to bring alcoholic beverages.

Also, dancers began performing completely nude, and revenues exceeded all previous levels for Mr. Zanganeh and performers, the suit says. When the club had a license, dancers wore bikini tops and bottoms while on stage.

On June 28, Chief Robey sent Mr. Zanganeh a letter saying Good Guys would face a $5,000 fine for each day it violated the law prohibiting patrons from drinking alcohol in a public establishment that offers nude dancing.

The next day, on June 29, officials from the Howard state's attorney's office and the state attorney general's office sent Mr. Zanganeh a letter saying dancers at Good Guys must perform at least six feet from customers, the suit says.

Mr. Zanganeh, although disagreeing with the requirements, changed operations at Good Guys to avoid prosecution, the suit says. He built a bar around the club's stage to keep dancers and patrons separated, and began requiring dancers to wear G strings.

But once Mr. Zanganeh made the changes, patronage at the club went down, the suit says.

"[Mr. Zanganeh] has sustained a serious and continuing economic loss of sizable proportion as a direct consequence of his required adherence to the restrictions imposed by the defendants," the suit says.

Meanwhile, Ms. Viola and Ms. Lewandowski have had to seek employment as dancers at other businesses to supplement their income, the suit says.

Mr. Scheler, the club's manager, has lost income because the loss in business means he doesn't work as many shifts, the suit says. He is paid on a per-shift basis.

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