All-nude bar is private, Good Guys' owner tells judge

January 14, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

Good Guys, the only Howard County bar with all-nude dancing, was back in court yesterday, its owner and managers arguing that the North Laurel bar is a private club where women have a right to dance nude if they choose.

But the state isn't buying that argument.

"This place is not a private club. . . . Anyone over 21 can join," said Evelyn Cannon, chief of litigation for the state attorney general's office, who argued before U.S. District Court Senior Judge Joseph Young in Baltimore.

At issue is a state law that prohibits patrons from drinking alcohol in a public establishment that has nude dancing.

Under that law, dancers can perform topless, behind a "fence," six feet away from patrons, as they have done at Good Guys in the past.

Howard County Police Chief James Robey in June ordered that all dancers wear "hot pants" or G-strings, and that the club obey the state law prohibiting alcohol consumption and nude dancing.

He threatened fines of $5,000 for each day that Good Guys failed to comply with that order.

But Good Guys challenged that, and in November, Judge Young issued an injunction barring county and state law enforcement agencies from enforcing the order.

The injunction also let the club's managers remove the barrier between the patrons and the dancers. Patrons bring their own alcohol.

Yesterday's testimony, the first of two days, was devoted entirely to testimony from Good Guys' lawyer, owner, two managers and a dancer.

Ransom Davis of Baltimore, attorney for the club, which is seeking a permanent injunction, argued that neither Howard County nor the state has a constitutional right to prohibit nude dancing and alcohol consumption in a private establishment.

Good Guys' owner, Benham Zanganeh, 48, also told Judge Young of steps he has taken since the injunction to demonstrate that Good Guys is private.

Members of Good Guys, for instance, first must fill out an application and pay an annual $10 membership fee.

When they join, they become voting members of Laurel Entertainment Inc., a nonprofit group that Good Guys' representatives created.

Members can decide whether Mr. Zanganeh provides concessions, food and entertainment for their club.

"I have given up the right to control that club," said Mr. Zanganeh, who also owns two all-nude dance clubs and an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C. "I am hired by them to provide concessions, food and entertainment."

Mr. Zanganeh testified that he runs a clean club.

"No excessive drinking . . . no physical contact with employees . . . no gifts," he said. "We had one dancer who did things that were not supposed to be done under our rules. I immediately fired her."

In that incident, the dancer made sexual advances to a patron, who turned out to be a police officer, he said.

The manager who was working at the time was "fired" for a week or so, and later relocated to another one of Mr. Zanganeh's other clubs, he said.

Mr. Zanganeh said his effort to privatize Good Guys is an attempt to save his $250,000 investment in the club.

He said he was losing more than $20,000 a month in business between June and November last year, after Chief Robey ordered a halt to all-nude dancing at the club.

Since the injunction went into effect in November, however, the club has grossed as much as $10,000 a week.

Attorneys in the case will present their final evidence and closing arguments today and await a ruling by Judge Young.

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