Nude dance club closes in Laurel

April 21, 1995|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

After a two-year battle with North Laurel residents and state and local government, Howard County's only all-nude dance club has permanently closed its doors.

Good Guys, a North Laurel club that opened four years ago at 9920 U.S. 1, closed April 8. Owner Benham Zanganeh said his business lost thousands of dollars in revenue because of state restrictions imposed on nude dancing in 1992.

"We're not making any money," Mr. Zanganeh said. "It's just not worth my efforts."

He is looking to sell his portion of the business to two investors who own 10 percent of the dance club's management company, called the 9920 Corp. The two investors, Bipin Aghera and Alireza Hajaligholi, have applied for a liquor license and have a hearing before the county liquor board at 7:30 p.m. May 9.

Mr. Zanganeh said he is not involved in the new business venture, which likely will turn the former dance club into a sports bar.

Since Good Guys opened, North Laurel residents have fought to have it closed, petitioning their county and state representatives. The club is just a few hundred feet from some North Laurel homes, with a parking lot and trees as a buffer.

Mr. Zanganeh's decision to close the club brought relief to residents, who also said they had become weary of the struggle.

"There is some justice in this world," said Donna Thewes, one of the leading opponents of the club. "I hope he understands never to come to my section of town again."

Mr. Zanganeh said state and county officials targeted his business with legislation that made it difficult for him to make money.

He charged that a 1992 bill sponsored by then-state Del. Martin G. Madden, who represented the North Laurel area, was designed to drive him out of Howard County.

Mr. Madden's bill extended a law that became known as the Body Talk Statute -- a law that restricted alcohol consumption and nude dancing in public places in Baltimore County -- to Howard and Prince George's counties.

Body Talk was the name of a Randallstown area club that drew protests about noise, litter and disturbances caused by drunken patrons.

"It was just a real disaster," said Mr. Madden, now a state senator representing the North Laurel area. "I didn't want anything like that coming to Howard or Prince George's counties, but my legislation wasn't targeting Good Guys."

When Mr. Zanganeh opened Good Guys, the club sold alcohol and dancers performed in bikinis.

Although residents protested, serious problems didn't arise until June 1993. The Board of License Commissioners suspended Good Guys liquor license and imposed a $1,000 fine after undercover police officers said they witnessed improper contact between dancers and patrons.

On June 26, 1993, 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 and a $10 cover charge each time they visited the club. They were allowed to bring alcohol.

The county said Good Guys' wasn't a private club because anyone who filled out an application and paid the membership fee could join.

Two days later, 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 state law barring alcohol consumption in a public place with nude dancing.

The next day, state and county officials sent Mr. Zanganeh another letter saying dancers at Good Guys could only perform at least six feet from customers.

"The government just wanted to get rid of my business," Mr. Zanganeh said. "When you need [government officials], they're never there. When you don't, they're always on top of you."

In October 1993, Mr. Zanganeh and two dancers from the club filed suit, charging that authorities were violating their constitutional rights. But a U.S. District Court judge upheld the county's position.

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