Council, clubs continue mediation Thursday

FOREST PARK — Forest Park mayor and council will meet Thursday in a second mediation meeting with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit involving strip clubs closed by the city.

The city council voted after the first mediation in February to continue negotiations with representatives of Galardi Enterprises, the corporation behind Pink Pony South and Crazy Horse Saloon, two strip clubs shuttered by the city in 2012.

City Manager Frank Brandon said he and police Chief Dwayne Hobbs have been asked to attend Thursday’s special called meeting. Brandon said they didn’t attend the February mediation.

Brandon said he has been told that all members of council, whether named in the suit or not, have been asked to attend.

The 5:30 p.m. meeting agenda specifies the mediation but also includes the statement, “And all matters related thereto, including but not limited to, all issues affecting the operation of Adult Entertainment Establishments in the City of Forest Park, including but not limited to, zoning ordinances, including but not limited to, ordinances relating to places of public assembly,” which would give council a legal ability to vote on those issues during the session if there is a quorum.

The businesses opened years ago as strip clubs but their potency was diluted when the city revised its adult entertainment ordinance in March 2009, barring complete nudity, tipping, lap dances and alcohol sales.

The following year, city council issued a moratorium on permits to adult clubs until March 15, 2011, to give the city time to properly advertise proposed changes.

After taking public input, the city adopted a new ordinance with the tighter restrictions. Presented with the choice to offer nude dancing without alcohol or to offer drinking without nudity, the clubs chose to serve food and alcohol, thus becoming bikini bars.

But Forest Park officials alleged the clubs continued to provide nude dancing, and that dancers and customers engaged in a litany of illegal activities. City council appointed a hearing officer in September 2011 to determine if the clubs should lose their alcohol or business licenses.

As a result of the fall 2011 hearings, both clubs had their business and alcohol licenses revoked. In December 2011, council voted to change the ordinance to reflect a license revocation as grounds for denying a new license.

City ordinances don’t allow for the issuance of an alcohol license to a business that doesn’t have an operating license.

Since the clubs closed Jan. 16, 2012, attorneys and officials associated with the clubs have attended city council meetings, vowing to “not go away” and promising continued litigation.