Strip bar in Cape may lose licenses

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The police chief said a pattern of violations has led to the city's current action.

The adult-business license for a Cape Girardeau striptease bar may not be renewed because of a decade of city ordinance violations, police chief Steve Strong said Tuesday.

"I am not making a moral judgment," Strong said. " I am going by the ordinance."

The liquor license for Stephanie's Cabaret, formerly Regina's House of Dolls, already is in jeopardy, officials said. Losing the adult-business license would make the striptease acts illegal.

Simulated sexual acts by dancers and customers and prohibited exposure by the dancers have violated the city's restrictions, the police chief said. The acts were witnessed last year by undercover state liquor agents. However, Strong said a pattern of similar actions over the club's 10-year history has led to the city's current action. Strong said he will likely recommend denying approval of the adult-business license.

The club's annual adult-business license expires on June 30. The club has yet to apply for a renewal, Strong said. The club opened in February 1995, although 1,900 residents signed a petition in opposition.

Under city regulations adopted after the club opened, the city manager decides whether to grant adult-business licenses.

That's different than with liquor licenses, where approval rests with the city council, said city attorney Eric Cunningham.

The city council Monday night renewed a liquor license for the nightclub at 805 Enterprise St. but only for six months rather than for an entire year as is normally the case. The council placed the business on probation.

Strong said the city could revoke the $450 liquor license if further violations occur during the next six months.

The nightclub already is in danger of losing its state liquor license, city officials said.

In March, the supervisor of the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control issued an order to revoke the liquor license for 10 counts of lewdness observed during an investigation last November.

On Nov. 19, undercover state liquor agents witnessed various simulated sexual acts at the nightclub in violation of state liquor regulations. Undercover agents observed 10 violations during the featured performance of a pornographic film actress from Reading, Pa., including: simulated sexual intercourse with a male patron; a dancer displaying the nipple area of her breast; an employee fondling her breast, simulated sex act with a beer bottle; and nightclub employees using indecent and obscene language, including comments made over the public address system.

Stephanie's Cabaret is appealing the order by the state agency, Strong said.

Attempts to reach someone at the club by phone Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful. Messages were left with the corporate office in Paducah, Ky., but the calls weren't returned.

If the nightclub loses its state liquor license it no longer could operate as a bar regardless of whether it still had a city liquor license, Strong said.

Some of the activity also would violate the city's adult-business ordinance adopted after Regina's House of Dolls opened in 1995, Strong said. The city ordinance prohibits employees and customers at such clubs from engaging in any kind of sexual conduct, fondling or prostitution on the premises and bars total nudity. Customers aren't permitted within 10 feet of the stage.

While the council has no authority to approve or deny an adult-business license, Mayor Jay Knudtson said such violations led the council to put the business on probation regarding a city liquor license.

"It is a huge concern," he said. "It certainly appears we have activity going on that is detrimental to our community."

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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