WESTBROOK – The owner of the Dreamers Cabaret strip club has sued Westbrook and its fire inspector, Charles Jarrett, claiming that city officials violated his constitutional rights when they shut down the club.

Lawrence Ferrante filed his lawsuit on Tuesday, seeking an injunction and damages for the city’s revocation of his occupancy permit last week.

Tom Hallett, the lawyer who represents Ferrante, said municipalities don’t have the right to arbitrarily shut down exotic dancing clubs. He said the shutdown violates Ferrante’s right to freedom of expression.

“He has been subjected to some serious municipal bullying and harassment,” Hallett said. “Westbrook has no restrictions. Nude dancing is absolutely allowed in the city. use of administrative harassment, the city shut them down.”

Ferrante declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The full-nudity club on Warren Avenue opened Sept. 17 and was closed the next day, after the fire inspector cited code violations related to fire alarms, sprinkler coverage and state construction permits.

Jarrett did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Rick Gouzie, the city’s code enforcement officer, revoked the club’s occupancy permit on Sept. 20, citing construction that had been done after his final inspection.

Last week, the City Council resurrected an ordinance — drafted, but never passed, a year ago — to regulate strip clubs. The ordinance would prohibit full nudity and set minimum distances from schools, parks, playgrounds, churches and libraries. It also would prohibit alcohol on the premises.

Ferrante applied for a bottle club license last week, which would allow patrons to bring their own alcohol. The license would be issued by the state, but would need the council’s approval.

The Committee of the Whole, made up of all seven city councilors, took no action on the proposal Monday. Neither Ferrante nor Hallett attended the meeting.

“It’s extremely frustrating when the applicant doesn’t come forward when we are trying to make good policy decisions,” said City Councilor John O’Hara. “Whenever someone sues us, naturally it’s very disheartening, but we feel that we are very approachable. We want to work with businesses to make Westbrook a better community.”

Mayor Colleen Hilton said she was not surprised by the lawsuit.

“It’s unfortunate that this business has yet to present himself or his business plan to the city of Westbrook,” Hilton said.

City officials say the club opened illegally, because Ferrante misrepresented what would happen there and because construction was done indoors without a permit. They also contend that Dreamers will have to comply with the ordinance if it’s passed by the council. Hallett disagrees.

City Solicitor Bill Dale did not return calls seeking comment.

Hallett said Ferrante plans to hire Luke Lirot, a First Amendment attorney in Florida.

“We are up against the town and they have a lot of attorneys they can draw on,” Hallett said. “We need to match their firepower. The city’s going to have to stand down. We are not backing down. This lawsuit is going forward.”

As of late Wednesday, Ferrante had not given city officials a description of his business. The mayor, along with City Administrator Jerre Bryant and most city councilors, say they have never met Ferrante.

Ferrante is a licensed electrician and the owner of LPF Electric Co. Inc. The address listed on the application for the bottle club license says he lives on Falmouth Street in Westbrook.

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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