Forest Park amends alcohol ordinance

Forest Park City Council again tabled a request for an alcohol license from two closed former strip clubs and amended the ordinance regulating issuance of the licenses.

City Attorney Joe Harris said Monday night that the amendment allows for an appeals process when a license has been denied.

“This allows a person to appeal to the Superior Court and to ask for a hearing,” said Harris.

The request made by officials from the Pink Pony South and Crazy Horse Saloon was tabled at the March 5 meeting and was expected to be addressed Monday. Both businesses were closed Jan. 16 because City Manager John Parker denied representatives’ request for a business license.

Only the council has the power to approve or deny a license for alcohol sales. Because of ongoing litigation between the clubs and the city, Harris met with council in closed session to discuss the license request and pending ordinance amendment.

With the amended ordinance in place, the clubs have legal recourse if their request for an alcohol license is denied. That action was already in place for the denial of a business license.

Council could take up the issue at the next regular meeting, April 2.

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 business 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.

A federal $15 million lawsuit filed last month against Forest Park 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 council members 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 Council in July. Her seat remains vacant.

In March 2009, 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, allege 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, 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.”