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 his battle against the state law that prohibits nude dancing and alcohol consumption in a public establishment as a Constitutional fight. But he shouldn't be surprised if the civil libertarians choose 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 that 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 same two-step in their own attempts to sell nude dancing a few years ago, but it didn't work; local officials shut them down. Mr. Zanganeh compromised with the Howard County government this past 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. Members of the Howard County delegation plan to sponsor a bill in the General Assembly to ban nude dancing at clubs that aren't regulated by the county liquor board. This bill is aimed expressly at Good Guys. Although the legislation is 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; the recent state 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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