Nude dance club barred from allowing alcohol

February 04, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that Good Guys Bar & Grill, a nude dance club in North Laurel, no longer can let patrons drink alcohol if it continues to feature nude dancing.

But the owner of the nearly 3-year-old club already plans an appeal and says he will deny patrons the privilege of bringing alcohol into the club rather than halt nude dancing.

"It's obviously a sad day for me," said Behnam Zanganeh, 48, who sued to block a state law prohibiting alcohol and nude dancing in a public place. "Starting tonight, there won't be any alcohol on the premises. There are people who like nude dancing."

In his 11-page opinion issued Wednesday, Senior Judge Joseph H. Young said that a state law barring alcohol consumption and nude dancing in a public place is constitutional, and that the club violated that law.

"This really gives us everything we asked for -- the constitutionality of the law and the ruling that Good Guys is not a private club," said Kathryn Rowe, an assistant state attorney general who handled the case.

State's Attorney William R. Hymes said he intends to keep a watch on Good Guys to make sure the club obeys all laws pertaining to alcohol and nude dancing.

"Obviously, we would be required to do some surveillance," Mr. Hymes said. The club owner "obviously will be required to conform to the law."

The dispute over Good Guys erupted last summer after police investigated the club, which at the time had a liquor license and featured dancers in bikinis.

After alleged improper contact between dancers and patrons, the Board of License Commissioners in mid-June suspended Good Guys' liquor license and imposed a $1,000 fine.

But on June 26, Mr. Zanganeh surrendered his liquor license, declared his club private and began featuring nude dancers.

Members had to fill out an application, pay an annual $10 membership fee and pay a $10 cover charge each time they visited the club. They were allowed to bring their own alcohol.

On June 28, Howard County police Chief James Robey sent Mr. Zanganeh a letter saying the club would face a $5,000 fine for each day it violated the law barring alcohol consumption in a public establishment with nude dancing.

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

On Oct. 13, Mr. Zanganeh, along with the club's manager and two dancers, filed suit, charging that authorities were violating their constitutional rights.

In addition, the suit said, revenues were higher once the club began featuring nude dancers than when the dancers were partially clothed.

The club later got an injunction barring enforcement of the law. That injunction remained in effect from Nov. 4 until the court hearings Jan. 13 and 14.

Meanwhile, Mr. Zanganeh took further steps to make his club private. For example, those who joined were made voting members of Laurel Entertainment Inc., a nonprofit group created by Good Guys' representatives. Four of Mr. Zanganeh's employees sit on Laurel Entertainment's seven-member board.

But on Wednesday, Judge Young ruled that the club is not private and that authorities could enforce the state law barring alcohol consumption in a public nude-dancing establishment.

"When determining if an establishment is a private or public club, courts consider whether it is owned and controlled by its members," he said. "Good Guys is not controlled by LEI members. . . . Good Guys is not selective in its membership."

Mr. Zanganeh said the club's "private" status might be eliminated now that alcohol will no longer be allowed. But he stressed that nude dancing will continue.

And a lawyer for the club criticized the law barring alcohol at the nude establishment.

"I don't think people go haywire just because they have alcohol and see nude dancing," said Ransom Davis, the Baltimore attorney representing Good Guys. "Why is it that the people in Baltimore City are immune to alcohol and nude dancing and the residents of Howard County are not? I think this is a silly statute."

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