Home Money Strip club suit reaches $425K settlement

Strip club suit reaches $425K settlement

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A long-awaited jury trial set to begin today in Columbus against the city of Athens over its refusal to issue a zoning permit for an adult-entertainment business has been settled by the city’s insurer for $425,000.

After several attempts to open a club featuring nude dancing on Stimson Avenue, Demetrios Prokos and Christopher Stotts took the settlement and have withdrawn all plans for opening the adult-entertainment business.

Prokos, who owns the site, and Stotts, who wanted to open the strip club, sued the city in 2011 over the city’s refusal to grant a zoning permit for the project.

Former city code enforcement Director Steve Pierson and current and former members of the Athens Board of Zoning Appeals were named as the defendants.

The lawsuit sought monetary damages, attorney fees and a judgment declaring parts of the city zoning code unconstitutional as applied to the Stimson Avenue case.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley denied a request filed Dec. 3 by the city to reconsider an earlier ruling in the lawsuit. In the earlier ruling on Sept. 30, Marbley denied requests by both parties for summary judgment.

In its later motion asking Marbley to reconsider the ruling, the city argued Prokos and Stotts already litigated the essential aspects of their dispute in Athens County Common Pleas Court and Ohio’s 4th District Court of Appeals, and they should not get a second chance in federal court.

Last week, Marbley also denied Prokos and Stotts’ request to prohibit the city from presenting information at trial on their motive for seeking a permit to open an adult-entertainment business.

On Jan. 2, the defense attorneys involved in the case jointly submitted a pretrial order, which outlines in detail both their positions in the case.

According to the document, the issues to be settled in the trial include whether the city denied the permits by the books or denied them in retaliation to the form of entertainment at the proposed business.

Nude dancing is a legally protected form of expression under the First Amendment, but Prokos and Stotts claim city officials violated their right to protection under the law by failing to automatically grant the first permit application after 30 days, treating them differently than Thomas DeBeck, another applicant.

The city’s position, according to the document, is the applications were denied on the basis of the Board of Zoning Appeals’ interpretation of the zoning code, not because of the nature of the proposed business. The city also maintains there was no equal protection violation because the other zoning case was different.

The city’s insurance company will pay the settlement and there will be no cost to taxpayers.

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