Strip Club, City Settle After 2-Year Battle

Tod Hunter
ARCADIA, Calif. — A two-year legal battle between the city of Arcadia and a local strip club has ended in a settlement agreement, which could result in the club being closed or sold by April.

The city's decision to revoke Taboo Gentlemen's Club's business license for breaking the city's adult business codes led to a federal court case in 2006. The city's adult business ordinance prohibits lap dances, sexual contact, private dance booths and direct tipping. It also requires dancers to be licensed and perform on an elevated stage.

From 2004 to 2006, police say they conducted a series of inspections and undercover investigations at the club, and found repeated code violations including simulated sexual acts and performances by unlicensed dancers.

"Officers observed `lap dances' in private booths from partially clothed entertainers who made sexual contact with the officers by touching the officers or by rubbing themselves against the officers, simulating oral sex or sexual intercourse," court documents stated.

The club's owners, Bill Badi Gammoh and Chawkat Jajieh, and 10 dancers sued in response to the revocation, claiming city and police had obstructed business and violated their civil rights. The club has remained open pending the result of the suit.

Under the settlement, the city has agreed not to shut the club down until April 1. The club owners have said they plan to close or sell their stake by then. City officials also moved to make adult licenses more accessible to dancers, lowering the cost from $250 to $150 annually and offering a temporary license to dancers coming in from out of town.

"Everyone seems to be happy, including our clients," said attorney Scott Wellman, who represents Gammoh and Jajieh. "The city gets what they want, we get what we want — that's usually a pretty fair settlement."

The city used its ordinance to shut down Golden Eyes, another strip club, several years ago, leaving Taboo the only strip club in Arcadia.

In a second court case, Judge Victoria Chavez upheld Arcadia's right to revoke the club's business license on Sept. 25, rejecting an appeal filed by Taboo of an earlier Superior Court ruling. City officials can now use that court-approved right in April, should the club try to stay open after that.

In 1999, Arcadia officials overturned — under the threat of a lawsuit — an 11-year-old ordinance that had prevented strip clubs within 750 feet of a residential area. The older ordinance had effectively eliminated any place in the city where such clubs could open.