Six feet not only safe distance players told to keep

Ravens, Giants warned about city ordinance in adult entertainment

January 24, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - The marquee at the Mons Venus club, located a half-mile from Raymond James Stadium, says it all: "Super Babes. Super Dances. Super Club for Super Bowl."

But a player from an NFL team is the last person 19-year-old dancer Jessica Willis wants to see walk through the club's door this week, she said.

"I don't want to jeopardize anyone's career for a lap dance," said Willis, a college student who said she makes up to $2,000 a week strutting around the club in a thong bikini. "This city has ruined us."

Willis is talking about the controversy that began in December, when Tampa's mayor and city council passed an ordinance that says nude dancers and customers cannot come within six feet of each other.

Since the law was enacted, Tampa police have arrested more than 200 customers and dancers during numerous raids on what had been the city's hottest nightspots. Two National Hockey League players - Ted Donato and Tyler Bouck of the Dallas Stars - were arrested two weeks ago for violating the ordinance.

The law has forced the NFL and the Ravens and Giants to retool their strategies for keeping players out of trouble during the Super Bowl. As part of its "security precautions," the league sent a letter to all 31 teams and the players union last week, warning players about Tampa's adult-entertainment ordinance.

"Each Super Bowl has different issues," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, noting both teams were again warned of the ordinance when they received their security briefing upon arriving in Tampa.

Aiello said any NFL players arrested in Tampa would also be subject to league fines.

Joe Durkin, a Tampa police spokesman, said there would be no "crackdown" this week on the adult-entertainment business, "but [the new law] isn't going to be ignored either. ... It's business as usual."

A topless bar and another nude dance club are located across the street from the Ravens' team hotel. The Ravens do not have a curfew until Saturday night; the Giants have to be in their hotel by 12:30 a.m. through Friday night, and 11 p.m. Saturday.

But Ravens players appear to be heeding officials' warnings.

"Don't blow it in the last seven days," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said when asked how players were handling Super Bowl week temptations.

Said Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary: "My focus is on the game. This is the game you dream about. Why would I go out and get distracted?"

When asked how he planned to avoid dabbling in Tampa nightlife, McCrary said: "Stay in my hotel room."

That is a good strategy, said Shaya Lisogorski, a taxi cab driver who was parked in front of the Mons Venus on Monday night.

"I think the team who goes to party the most is the team who is going to lose the game," Lisogorski said.

Lisogorski, who calls Mons Venus Tampa's top destination for out-of-town male visitors, said he routinely picks up professional and collegiate athletes from the club.

"They almost always lose" the next day, said Lisogorski, who called the new law "a sham."

Joe Redner, the owner of Mons Venus, has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the ordinance and has been locked in a bitter feud with Tampa Mayor Dick A. Greco.

"I think the city of Tampa is being so reckless, it is out of this world," Redner said.

Redner, 60, has been in the adult entertainment industry for 25 years. He said he has been arrested on various adult-entertainment-related charges 150 times since 1976.

Redner, whose adult-entertainment establishments include the two across from the Ravens' hotel, said he believes he was the target of the six-foot ordinance. He said it was retribution because he refused to comply with the mayor's wishes that he relocate one of his clubs to spur economic development in the area.

Greco was unavailable for comment. When the ordinance was debated last winter, its proponents said they considered it a health issue. Its passage followed several weeks of spirited debate that included street protests from people on both sides. Redner refused to comply with the ordinance after it was passed, and even taunted police and city officials.

The city then asked a judge for an injunction ordering Redner to comply by posting a sign inside his clubs warning patrons of the law. The judge refused and the city appealed.

As the appeal proceeds through the local courts, Tampa police have been enforcing the ordinance. Police have raided Mons Venus about 15 times in the last year, but Redner remains defiant.

"I'm not complying. It's my duty not to comply with an unconstitutional law," he said.

In the club on Monday, the dancers were performing before a sparse crowd - perhaps because two local television news trucks were parked outside. The club's staff recited the names of dozens of high-profile athletes, actors and musicians who have visited the club over the years.

"Everybody comes here when they come to Tampa," said Manny Resto, a security guard at the club.

But Shannon Frantz, a 23-year-old dancer who goes by the stage name "Coral," said she expects business will be down this week because of the six-foot ordinance.

"Something has to be done, someone has to get involved with this and help us," said Frantz, who was recently arrested for violating the ordinance.

Many Tampa residents appeared embarrassed by the controversy and refused to talk about it. Those who did sided with Redner.

"I went to school in Kansas," said Kevin Hershinow, a former University of Kansas student. "Kansas is [one of] the most conservative states in the country, and you can still get lap dances. Believe me, [Tampa] politics don't reflect the people who live here."

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