Detroit Faces Suit Over Strip Club ‘Raids’

DETROIT — The city of Detroit and 13 vice squad officers have been hit with a federal lawsuit claiming that police systematically “raided” two strip clubs countless times in the past few years, costing the nightclubs millions in lost revenue.

The Penthouse Club, All Stars cabaret, three strippers and managers from each of the clubs filed suit last week at U.S. District Court in Detroit, claiming that city leaders have insisted on a policy “to censor, sanction and otherwise discourage dance conveying an erotic message.”

As a result, vice squad officers have subjected two of the city’s 37 adult clubs with systematic, protracted and frequent raids with the announced purpose of enforcing compliance with the regulations of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission under the guise of Detroit’s adult cabaret ordinance, the suit said.

Plaintiffs attorney Michael Donaldson told XBIZ that lost revenue would average to about $1 million per club annually because of the vice squad “raids.”

“The ‘raids’ are actually searches and seizures, conducted without consent, without a warrant and in the absence of probable cause,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson said that the root of Detroit vice squad “raids” on adult establishments is religion’s influence on city politics.

“Fact is that in Detroit, you don’t get elected unless you have certain religious groups on your side,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson said that vice squad officers have made hundreds of such trips to liquor-licensed premises, including 490 in 2006 with one violation reported and 566 in 2007 without any violations reported. He said that the “raids” have not stopped.

In many cases, Donaldson said, vice squad officers and officers from other jurisdictions act in concert before and during the raids to create the maximum interference possible to the continuing operation of business on the premises “to intimidate and embarrass the patrons on the premises and to harass, bully and intimidate the adult entertainers performing at the premises.”

Donaldson said that vice squad officers routinely order the adult entertainers to assemble and then remain on the stage for an extended period of time, on threat of arrest, in violation of the 1st and 4th Amendments.

On one occasion, police effectively shut down All Stars’ business operations for about two hours. Six hours later police closed it down again for three more hours.

Adult performers, under Detroit’s ordinance, pay $250 each year for a Class D adult cabaret license for the right to dance nude or semi-nude.

The Penthouse Club and All Stars, which both reside on Detroit’s famous 8 Mile Road, are seeking a permanent restraining order, as well as actual damages against the city of Detroit and the 13 vice squad officers.

A Detroit Police spokesman told XBIZ that the department would not comment on the pending litigation.