WESTBROOK – Dreamers Cabaret has cleared another hurdle in its continuing effort to open as a strip club in Westbrook, according to club owner Larry Ferrante, who vowed he would get permission to open for business soon.

“No matter what, we will open up, and we have the resources to do that,” said Ferrante. The final inspection from the city, he said, would likely happen next week.

However, the club’s future will likely be settled in court. At issue is whether the club should receive “grandfathered” protection against a new city ordinance, which would not allow alcohol on the premises or any contact between dancers and patrons. Dreamers has received a “bottle club” license, so if it is determined the club does not have to follow the ordinance, patrons could bring their own alcohol.

The city is challenging the application Ferrante filed to open his business in the first place, saying he provided incomplete or misleading information, as he did not declare he would be opening a strip club. The city has said Dreamers would only be allowed to open under the new ordinance. If that happens, Ferrante said, he is prepared to take the city to court to settle the matter.

The club originally opened its doors at 84 Warren Ave. on Sept. 17, 2010, but had to close the next day after the city cited code violations on the building. Soon after, the City Council passed an adult entertainment ordinance.

Since then, Ferrante has been fighting with the city. He has accused city officials in the past of deliberately obstructing the business because it is a strip club, an allegation the city vehemently denies.

On Dec. 5, 2010, the club made headlines again when police alleged the club had re-opened illegally. According to police reports, officers doing “routine commercial business checks” discovered the club was open with loud music playing, cars in the parking lot, and a number of men and women inside.

Ferrante has said there were only three men inside doing plumbing work. The women, he said, came to Westbrook after a night of clubbing in Portland and were only there to bring the workers coffee.

Ferrante said his attorney has estimated the city has spent $100,000 on legal costs, which he said is a waste of money since his business is perfectly legal.

“They’re willing to spend $100,000 on a constitutionally-allowed business,” he said.

That kind of expense, he said, is irresponsible with all the other budgetary problems the city is now dealing with.

“Why are they curtailing everything in Westbrook, but they’re willing to go out on a limb to prevent the opening of this business?” he said.

Ferrante said he believes the city is using building code issues to keep him from opening, and said no other business in Westbrook would have to work this hard to open legally.

“They are trying to micromanage this business, and hold us to a higher standard than any other business in Westbrook,” he said.

City Manager Jerre Bryant, said the city is trying to treat Dreamers “as fairly as possible.” Bryant said Ferrante did not tell the city he would be opening a strip club at the Warren Street location, and once city officials found out, they demanded he re-apply for his occupancy permit.

Bryant insisted that all the city wants is to make sure the building is up to code. The city is demanding Ferrante comply with the same regulations that any other club of any kind would have to abide by, he said.

“The rules and regulations apply to them just like they apply to everyone else,” Bryant said.

Bryant denied that the city issued code violations because Ferrante wants to open a strip club.

“The code issue has nothing to do with adult entertainment,” he said.

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