Hustler Club fined $525 for allowing illegal touching

City liquor board hears vice officers' evidence

September 24, 2004|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,SUN STAFF

The owners of Larry Flynt's Hustler Club were fined $525 by the city liquor board yesterday for violating the prohibition on sexual touching.

Owner Jason C. Mohney was facing four charges of violating the city's adult entertainment rules, and the Board of Liquor License Commissioners found him guilty of two. It also reduced his fines by $400.

"I realistically thought we would be found not guilty of everything," said Mohney's attorney, Peter Prevas, adding that he was considering an appeal. "I still think there were very technical violations and I believe we were not guilty of them."

One of the alleged violations involved Mohney's brother, 19-year-old Justin Mohney, who police said was being touched illegally by a dancer. But that charge was dismissed, because police could not verify the contact took place, said Commissioner Claudia Brown.

Lt. Paul Blair, with the city police vice squad, said he and other officers went to the club Nov. 16 in a routine check of The Block establishments. Blair said in addition to seeing Justin Mohney engaged in sexual touching with a dancer, they observed illegal contact between a dancer and a cocktail waitress and between a patron and a dancer.

The board dismissed another violation because the two liquor board members present - Commissioner John Green was ill and did not attend - found it to be repetitive of the other charges.

But it was "touching" - its technical definition and interpretations - that stood at the center of the hourlong back and forth between Prevas and the board.

In describing the violation involving a dancer and an off-duty cocktail waitress, Prevas said: "If I were to familiarly hug Mr. Mohney, our breasts have touched," he said, generating mild irritation and impatience among board members.

"If I hug my mother, that's technically breast to breast touching. ... My question is how do you interpret these rules?"

Brown said after the hearing that "the law is very clear."

"When we made the rules, we said, `No touching,'" she said. "I did not even want to entertain the term `lap dancing' because I knew some slick lawyer would try to work around it."

The fine was imposed nearly a year after the strip club opened in the city's seedy adult entertainment district known as The Block.

Named after a man who built an empire peddling pornography, Larry Flynt's Hustler Club sits in the center of 20 or so clubs on the run-down strip.

But, from the start, Jason Mohney promised he would distinguish it from the others as a classy, upscale establishment worthy of the designation "gentleman's club."

Yet four days after the club's opening, it was hit with the allegations of illegal touching.

Prevas defended the establishment's "gentleman's club" image, saying it tries to avoid such violations by using an elaborate security system with 85 video cameras and a staff of about 10 security guards to monitor clients and dancers.

Liquor board Chairman Mark S. Fosler appeared empathetic in his closing remarks, encouraging Mohney to uphold high standards.

"You have done a good thing with your security system," he said. "We want you to set the standard that others follow. If there is anything we or the police can do to help, let us know."

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