Club owner sues for right to strip

Posted Sept. 30, 2010, at 9:53 a.m.

WESTBROOK, Maine — The owner of a Maine strip club that was shut down by Westbrook officials is suing the city, claiming his constitutional rights are being violated.

Lawrence Ferrante filed the complaint Tuesday. He is seeking an injunction and damages from the city.

Ferrante’s lawyer, Tom Hallet, told the Portland Press Herald that his client is being subjected to “municipal bullying and harassment.” He said the city doesn’t have an ordinance prohibiting nude dancing, and is violating Ferrante’s right to freedom of expression.

Ferrante’s full-nudity club, Dreamers Cabaret, opened Sept. 17 and was shut down the next day for alleged fire code violations. City officials then revoked the club’s occupancy permit.

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.

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