Naked Truth about Good Guys

January 19, 1994

Benham Zanganeh, the owner of the Good Guys strip club on Route 1 in North Laurel, has tried to portray as a constitutional fight his battle against a state law that prohibits nude dancing in a public establishment where alcohol is consumed.

But he shouldn't be surprised if the civil libertarians opt to sit this one out. This issue is less about the Constitution than it is about one bar owner's campaign to keep his business from going under.

Early last year, Howard County officials learned the dancers at Good Guys were exhibiting far more of themselves than the law allowed. The police ordered G-strings or hot pants for the dancers; otherwise Mr. Zanganeh would face fat fines. He responded by giving up his liquor license and re-labeling his business a "private club." The "members" fill out applications at the door, pay an annual fee and bring their own booze.

Two strip-joint owners in Baltimore County tried this two-step in LTC their own attempts to sell nude dancing a few years ago, but local officials shut them down. Mr. Zanganeh compromised with the Howard government last June by making his dancers wear G-strings and putting a barrier between them and his customers. But then, he claims, his profits fell. So last November he sought, and won, an injunction against the county order. Nude dancing returned to Good Guys, as did Mr. Zanganeh's meatier profits. Now a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore is considering the bar owner's request for a permanent injunction.

Even if the judge rules for him, Mr. Zanganeh will encounter other pressures. Howard legislators plan to sponsor a bill to ban nude dancing at clubs that aren't regulated by the county liquor board. This bill is aimed expressly at Good Guys. Though perhaps well-intentioned, the matter is one probably best left to local government.

Also, as Route 1 is revitalized, there will continue to be the same sort of pressures that have closed the aforementioned Baltimore County strip bars and thwarted others in Anne Arundel and Harford counties. Baltimore's infamous Block appears doomed as well; last Friday's police raid was but the latest official step to weed out sleazy businesses in favor of more acceptable forms of development. Maybe Mr. Zanganeh would view a permanent injunction as a victory. But the naked truth is that he probably wouldn't get to savor it very long.

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