The owner of two Forest Park strip clubs has filed a $15 million federal lawsuit against the city, charging officials with selective prosecution and orchestrating an elaborate bureaucratic scheme designed to shut down the businesses.
City officials closed the doors, Jan. 16, on Pink Pony South and Crazy Horse Saloon, when the clubs failed to qualify for renewal of their annual operating licenses. Crazy Horse Saloon opened for business in 1993, followed by Pink Pony in 2007. Both clubs are owned by corporations whose sole shareholder is Jack Galardi.
The suit alleges that the city began a campaign to “eradicate” the businesses following the 2009 elections, incorrectly identified in the filings as the “2008” elections.
“Almost immediately after the new mayor and city councilmembers took office, the City began passing legislation aimed at shutting down the Businesses,” alleges the federal lawsuit. “The City passed ordinances hostile to the adult entertainment industry.”
Actually, Mayor Corine Deyton and Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams were re-elected in 2009. Karen Brandee-Williams was the only new member of council elected that year. She was removed from office by the city council in July. Her seat remains vacant.
In March 2009, the council revised the adult entertainment ordinance to ban the sale of alcohol at businesses that offer nude dancing. The revision also banned the use of any booths inside the clubs.
“The restrictions substantially diminished the value of the Businesses and the Properties,” alleges the complaint.
In January 2011, the businesses began operating as “bikini bars,” so alcohol continued to be sold inside the clubs. At the same time, say attorneys for Galardi, the city began “selectively and aggressively” enforcing sections of the “alcohol code” against the businesses.
A two-day hearing in November resulted in the recommendation of the revocation of the clubs’ business and alcohol licenses. Presiding officer Michael Martin heard evidence and testimony of lewd dancing, simulated sex acts and physical contact between dancers and customers.
The same day, Martin issued his recommendation, the council amended the city ordinance to allow the rejection of a license if the business has a prior revocation.
Forest Park Finance Director Mike Blandenburg sent Galardi letters, dated Dec. 29 advising him the applications for renewal of business licenses for Pink Pony and Crazy Horse were denied. Blandenburg listed the deciding factors as failure to pay outstanding property taxes and “substantial evidence” that Galardi allowed dancers to engage in “ongoing acts and conduct which violated the City’s Public Indecency Ordinance.”
The city heard an appeal of that denial Jan. 3. Two days later, City Manager John Parker affirmed the denial of the licenses.
In addition to the $15 million in damages, Galardi is asking that the Federal Court find the city’s adult entertainment code and the city’s enforcement of it unconstitutional. Galardi also wants the non-renewal code to be declared unconstitutional.