Liquor board fines 2 strip clubs

Undercover policemen say dancers at venues on The Block offered sex acts for money

October 19, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN REPORTER

The city liquor board yesterday penalized two strip clubs on The Block where undercover police said dancers offered to perform sex acts in exchange for money.

The 2 O'Clock Club, at 414 E. Baltimore St. was hit with a $1,200 fine and a three-day suspension of its liquor license starting Oct. 24. Another club, Lust, at 408 E. Baltimore St., was fined $500.

The fines come at a time when city police and liquor board officials appear to be focusing attention on The Block, the nickname for adult bookstores and strip clubs in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St. and several side streets.

Law enforcement officials say they have not targeted The Block, but owners of some strip clubs there disagree. In July, the board levied a $9,000 fine against The Stagedoor Gentlemen's Club, at 5-11 Commerce St., after undercover police arrested three dancers on prostitution charges. Undercover vice officers and health inspectors have cited other clubs on The Block for numerous violations.

In addition to the prostitution allegations, the 2 O'Clock Club was cited for underage drinking. A man told the board he drank cognac in the club when he was too young to be legally served. The legal drinking age is 21, but Dante Butler said he showed his identification, which indicated he was 19, and was allowed to enter the club in February. He said he had one drink before an officer spotted him and gave him a citation.

Butler was almost not allowed to testify. Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the liquor board, called for witnesses, but Butler did not step forward until the case was nearly closed. Butler said he did not speak up earlier because he did not understand what was happening.

A. Dwight Pettit, lawyer for the club and its owner Shellie Lynn Poling, argued that Butler should not be allowed to testify. Pettit also said there was no evidence bartenders sold Butler the alcohol.

"It was vague that he brought it inside," Pettit said after the hearing. "He could have brought it in with him."

Poling testified that she closed down the club for 10 days after hearing of the

violations. She said she fired the entire staff including the manager, though she eventually rehired a few dancers.

"I thought the penalty was harsh considering she voluntarily closed the club," Pettit said afterward, speaking on behalf of Poling.

The city liquor board is a state agency that enforces Baltimore's liquor laws and monitors the activities of liquor establishments.

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