The operator of a nude dancing club closed by Westminster police in January has started a similar club in Stanton that remains open despite the city's efforts to shut it down.
Sheriff's deputies closed TJ's Theater in a shopping center at 10350 Beach Blvd. within hours of its Aug. 5 opening because owner Theron M. Smith had not obtained a city permit for live entertainment. However, Smith obtained a court order on Monday allowing him to operate pending an Aug. 30 hearing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. On Wednesday the theater reopened, city officials said.
In January, Smith and several employees were arrested in Westminster when the police there closed down the Shangri-La, a nude dance club he owned that the city said was operating illegally. He is now suing Westminster over its policy on granting permits for live entertainment, and has filed a similar suit against Stanton.
Mayor Sal Sapien said he was "outraged" at Smith and the court order temporarily forbidding the closure of the new adult business. He said that although Smith does not have the proper permits to operate, the city is legally "hamstrung" in trying to do anything about it.
"We would have shut them down right off the bat, but unfortunately judges are more concerned with protecting the so-called constitutional rights of these purveyors of smut than the constitutional rights of the people of Stanton," he said. "This type of business is one we positively don't like and don't want. It's going to bring (out) all the sleaze balls in town."
Sapien added that the council has directed the city staff to get "the best constitutional lawyer we can find in the area to prepare an analysis on how we can fight (the lawsuit). We are prepared to go to the mat on this one."
The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that local communities can ban nude dancing.
Neither Smith nor his attorney, who was out of town, could be reached for comment on Thursday.
City Planning Manager Mark Lloyd said that when Smith initially applied to open a business in Stanton in late July, he obtained a permit only for showing classic sports films. But Lloyd recently received a letter from Smith's attorney, dated July 31, stating that TJ's would instead be a theater "wherein constitutionally protected nude and/or semi-nude entertainment is presented."
When signs went up in front of the theater announcing nude dancing there, Lloyd said, "that's when the turmoil began."
On Tuesday, the Westminster City Council granted Smith permission to open a new nude dance club at 7000 Garden Grove Blvd., but with conditions so stringent that Smith said in a letter to the city that operating there would be "impossible."