NORTH LIMA District court's order bars enforcement of law against total nudity
Without enforcement, it's been a Wild West atmosphere, a state official says.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
NORTH LIMA -- Dancers at strip clubs where liquor is served -- such as Christie's Cabaret on Market Street -- don't have to cover up today and maybe never will.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety has had a setback in its plans to enforce a reworked version of Rule 52. The Ohio Liquor Commission regulation gives agents the authority to cite liquor establishments for nudity, disorderly conduct and public indecency. Citations can lead to the loss of a liquor license.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich in Cleveland issued a temporary restraining order last week that prohibits enforcement of Rule 52 until a hearing March 18. Lawyers for Christie's Cabarets contend the rewritten rule, crafted by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, contains nearly identical restrictions that were in the original rule that Judge Aldrich threw out more than three years ago.
In July 2000, the judge issued a permanent injunction, agreeing with strip-club lawyers that portions of Rule 52 were overly broad and violated First Amendment rights. In her decision, she pointed out that the nudity in the plays "Hair" and "Equus," for example, are constitutionally protected artistic performances.
Cleveland attorney J. Michael Murray, who represents Christie's Cabarets in Cleveland, Brunswick and North Lima, asked for next month's hearing in federal court. Joe Strazzanti, who owns the Christie's Cabaret in North Lima, referred questions to Murray, who could not be reached.
North Lima club
The Christie's Cabaret at 10708 Market St., near the Ohio Turnpike exit, opened a month ago. An "open for lunch" banner hangs on the muted-pink building adjacent to the Penn-Ohio Plaza.
The adult entertainment bar-restaurant would not permit The Vindicator to photograph the interior. No photographic equipment is allowed, including camera cell phones.
Inside, the upscale strip bar is tastefully decorated, with about 30 small cocktail tables, with a tiny light on each. Plush cream-colored sofas and chairs line the side walls, and multicolored lights illuminate the circular stage with requisite pole.
It takes a few minutes for patrons' eyes to adjust to the dimly lighted interior. The music is an eclectic mix from Barry White to Prince and Janet Jackson.
Even at lunchtime, topless female dancers entertain. The bar is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Patrons who want the sole attention of a topless dancer at their table pay a minimum of $10, and if they request total nudity, that's a minimum of $20. The prices are listed on a menu of sorts that sits on each table.
A waitress told three lunch-goers who inquired about the private Champagne Room on Thursday that, for $90, a customer can select a dancer and be entertained in the room for 15 minutes. The cost is $180 for 30 minutes.
"What you guys do back there, I don't know. I'm just the waitress," she said.
Christie's Cabaret's settling in Beaver Township was not embraced by officials.
"We fought their opening every step of the way," said Beaver Police Chief Carl N. Frost. "We didn't think it was a good idea to have drunks pulling out near the turnpike exit."
Frost said the township challenged Christie's liquor and zoning permits and lost. The chief said there have been no problems since the bar opened last month.
Ed Duvall, Ohio Investigative Unit deputy director, said once Judge Aldrich issued her ruling in 2000, enforcement of Rule 52 stopped statewide. He said Ohio has 24,000 liquor establishments.
There are bars in the state that offer full nudity as part of the entertainment, Duvall said. "It's almost a Wild West atmosphere in some places."
He believes the rewritten Rule 52, which requires opaque coverings of nipples, genitals and buttocks, for example, is clear and concise. He said it was patterned after a law enforced in Erie, Pa.
Duvall acknowledged that the constitutionality of Ohio's law will have to be decided in court.
An Internet search shows local strip bars include New Affair Lounge in Youngstown; Babylon and Club 76 in Austintown; Palace in the Pines in Coitsville; and Headliners Gentlemen's Club, near Greenville, Pa.