The city of Westbrook did not violate the constitutional rights of the owner of Dreamers Cabaret by revoking the strip club’s occupancy permit and then imposing regulations on nude entertainment, according to a federal judge.

Larry Ferrante, who owned the club on Warren Avenue and sued the city, said he does not intend to object to the ruling handed down Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich III.

“It’s all over,” Ferrante said Tuesday.

Dreamers Cabaret opened Sept. 17, 2010, and shut down a day later, when Westbrook’s fire inspector cited the business for code violations that included having inadequate sprinklers and no fire alarm system. Days later, the city’s code enforcement officer revoked the club’s occupancy permit.

Within a week, the City Council held a special meeting to consider regulations for nude entertainment. The council adopted an ordinance in November 2010 banning full nudity and alcohol in strip clubs in Westbrook – Dreamers Cabaret was the only one.

Thomas Hallett, the attorney who represented Dreamers, contended that city officials’ decisions were motivated by their distaste for strip clubs. In the lawsuit, he claimed that their treatment of the business was a method of censorship.

City officials said Ferrante was never forthcoming about his plan for the building, so the opening of the strip club took them by surprise.

In August 2010, Ferrante applied for a permit to open a “private recreational facility.” During an inspection the week before the club opened, he didn’t disclose plans for nude dancing when questioned by officials about specific uses.

Problems continued after the permit was revoked. About 1 a.m. Dec. 5, 2010, police went into the club and found music blaring and a group of people, some with extensive criminal records. Officers were told that the men were plumbers making emergency repairs, and that the women there were serving them coffee.

In his ruling on the case, Rich found that Hallett had failed to prove that the revocation of the occupancy permit or the adoption of an ordinance violated the First Amendment.

The plaintiff, The Ferrante Group Inc., has until Jan. 17 to file an objection to the ruling and have the case heard by a U.S. District Court judge.

Hallett, who is pursuing a similar lawsuit against the town of Eliot, said Tuesday that Ferrante, president of The Ferrante Group, would have to decide whether to file an objection.

Ferrante said his corporation has been dissolved and he has had no involvement with the club for several months. “I pretty much stay out of it,” he said.

The club, which addressed its safety code violations, could have applied for a change-of-use permit and reopened, but it never did. About a month ago, Selden Von Herten, the owner of the building at 84B Warren Ave., started the process of evicting the club and said his tenant was removing furnishings.

City Councilor Michael Foley said he assumed that the eviction would be the end of Dreamers Cabaret.

“I considered this over a while ago,” he said Tuesday.

Still, the judge’s ruling confirms that the council “acted in the appropriate way,” Foley said.

Despite several public meetings regarding Dreamers and the nude-entertainment ordinance, residents had little to say publicly on the matter, Foley said.

But the general feeling in town was that a strip club wouldn’t be good for Westbrook, said Mike White, plant manager and former owner of White Bros. Construction on Warren Avenue., near where Dreamers operated, in an industrial zone.

White said he doesn’t think that having a strip club nearby would have affected his business, especially considering that another one, PT’s Showclub, is right around the corner on Riverside Street in Portland.

But as a community member, he said, he believes that such a business would be “counterproductive” to the city’s attempt to enhance its reputation.

“We’re still in the process of maturing away from being a mill town,” he said.

White said the judge’s ruling can only help. “I think that it worked out just right,” he said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]