WESTBROOK – Westbrook city councilors held the first reading of

a nude entertainment ordinance without comment Monday night. But at

a preceding meeting, <span style="

“font-family: ArialMT; font-size: 17px;”>councilors argued over the

necessity of such an ordinance with an attorney representing a

company attempting to open a strip club in the city.

WESTBROOK – Westbrook is one step closer to enacting a nude entertainment ordinance following actions by the City Council at its meeting Monday night.

Councilors gave a first reading of the nude entertainment ordinance with little fanfare Monday night. The six councilors in attendance voted in favor of the ordinance without comment. Councilor Suzanne Joyce was absent.

A second reading and a public hearing on the matter are scheduled for the Council’s Nov. 1 meeting.

However, at a meeting before the council proceedings of the Committee of the Whole, which includes the councilors and the mayor, councilors argued over the necessity of such an ordinance with an attorney representing a company attempting to open a strip club in the city.

The ordinance places restrictions on nude entertainment businesses. Such establishments would have to be more than 500 feet from schools, churches, homes, libraries, juvenile centers and places that sell alcohol. Dancers would have to cover their genitals, alcohol would be prohibited and there could be no physical contact between patrons and dancers.

City attorney Bill Dale presented an amendment Monday night that would also prohibit showing the female breast below the top of the nipple.

City officials began discussing the ordinance on Sept. 22 following the opening and abrupt closure of Dreamers Cabaret, a strip club on Warren Avenue that opened on Sept. 17 before the city shut it down a day later.

Dreamers recently received its bottle club license from the city. Councilors voted Monday night to refer bottle club regulations to the Committee of the Whole for review.

The Committee of the Whole referred the nude entertainment ordinance to the City Council before the council’s meeting. During the Committee of the Whole meeting, committee members and Dreamers’ attorney Thomas Hallett engaged in a war of words on the issue.

“We believe … that this ordinance should not be enacted,” Hallett said. “You don’t need it … Dreamers is going to be grandfathered. This was a knee-jerk reaction by the town.”

The ordinance regulating nude entertainment contains a reference to the McCleary report for Jackson County, Mo., which suggests nude entertainment has negative effects on public health, safety and morals. Hallett responded to the report by providing large binders to the committee full of peer-reviewed studies suggesting businesses like strip clubs have no such impacts.

“There is sort of an outmoded perception of gentlemen’s clubs that they are seedy,” Hallett said, claiming police respond more often to bars than strip clubs. “There are no secondary effects of gentleman’s clubs as they are presented today.”

Hallett said Dreamers would be a self-policed business and a boon to the local economy. The ordinance will do nothing more than cause undue hardship for Dreamers, he said.

“If this has to be litigated, that’s a problem for everyone,” he said. “We don’t think it will pass muster. If we have to attack it, we will.”

City Councilor Michael Foley countered that if Dreamers’ representatives were dishonest when portraying the club to city officials.

“The applicant stated things to the effect of pool tables, arcade games, workout equipment,” he said. “That’s not what was in there on Friday or Saturday when the establishment was open.”

City officials shut the business down on Sept. 18, citing fire code violations. Hallett has argued the city used the violations as a pretext to justify closing Dreamers after realizing there was no ordinance regulating a strip club within the city.

Hallett maintains his client, Dreamers owner Lawrence Ferrante, never lied about his intentions. He called Dreamers a “private entertainment facility” that is appropriate within its zone.

“Our perspective is it was shut down because of the content of the adult entertainment,” said Hallett. “It’s hard for us to understand why it would be shut down for occupancy of 360 people when already the occupancy permit had been granted with an occupancy of 360 people.”

Foley asked code enforcement officer Rick Gouzie, who was in attendance, whether stripper poles were installed when he inspected the building before Dreamers opened. He said no.

“The city staff has no gain to lie to us,” Foley said.

Councilor Paul Emery reflected on his time with the Planning Board, stating the board is never appreciative of applicants who are not entirely honest.

“We were not appreciative when people were fuzzy deliberately,” he said. “We worked on the premise, if it started wrong it was not going to end well.”

Dale said that while a U.S. District Court judge recently denied Dreamers’ request for a temporary restraining order that would have restored its occupancy permit, a civil lawsuit over the issue is still pending. He said Westbrook’s insurance carrier will be taking over the lawsuit at no cost to the city.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: