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ABC Board Upholds Denial of Nude Club Permit to Sell Liquor

Regulation: Protesters have long battled the nightspot. Lawyer says they are elated, believing action will lead to closure.

March 13, 1997|STEVE CARNEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WESTMINSTER — A two-year battle by church members and community protesters to keep an all-nude club from getting a liquor license ended this week when the state Alcoholic Beverage Control appeals board upheld an earlier decision denying Scamps the license.

"It's a huge decision that all the people in the community of Westminster are happy about," said James Anton, an Orange attorney representing one of the protesters, Father James Hartnett of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Westminster.

For now, Scamps will remain an all-nude club. Had it been granted a liquor license, it would have had to change to a topless club, since state law forbids liquor sales in nude bars.

Scamps owner Bob Martin said Wednesday he hadn't heard about the decision. He said he has owned Scamps and the Marquee, a rock 'n' roll bar previously operating at the same site, since 1988.

"I have always believed in our judicial system, but this one really leaves me in a void," said Martin, who declined further comment.

Anton said the protesters are elated about their victory, even though it means Scamps will remain an all-nude club.

"They want the liquor license because that's how they make their money," Anton said of the club's owners. Without the license, and with people picketing the club every night, "at some point in time, they're probably going to go out of business."

Anton said those opposed to Scamps think they will be rid of the club sooner if it can't sell alcohol, no matter how undressed the dancers inside are.

When Martin closed his previous bar and reopened it as Scamps two years ago, he tried to transfer his liquor license to the Santa Fe Springs Realty Corp., of which he was an officer, said Westminster police Det. Tommy Rackleff. But community members challenged the transfer, starting the feud that stretched to this week.

Martin may still appeal in state court, and could take it as far as the Supreme Court, Rackleff said.

At the first ABC hearing early last year, Westminster Police Chief James Cook testified that prostitution, drug sales and other crimes increase in areas around adult clubs that serve alcohol. The hearing had to be stretched out over four days because so many protesters wanted to speak, Anton said.

The ABC denied Scamps a liquor license last May, and Martin appealed the decision.

The club's location, at 7000 Garden Grove Blvd., has housed bars for about 20 years, Rackleff said.

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