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L.A. Strip Club Permit Revoked Over School

City OKd nude venue even as a new campus was being planned across the street.

August 14, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

For more than two years, city officials knew that the Los Angeles Unified School District was planning a middle school on the corner of West 37th Street and South Grand Avenue in South Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, four months ago, the city's Building and Safety Department issued a permit for an all-nude club across the street from the proposed campus, in violation of a city zoning law that requires adult entertainment establishments to be at least 500 feet from a school.

On Wednesday, as angry residents and school district representatives crowded into City Council chambers to protest the potential proximity of children on playgrounds to naked women on stage, the council voted to revoke the building permit and deny the club a certificate of occupancy. The club has already been built and was set to open this month.

"This just highlights that we need to develop a fail-safe system," said Councilwoman Jan Perry. "Obviously, there's a breakdown in communications between Planning and Building and Safety."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 19, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Strip clubs -- An article in Thursday's California section about strip clubs said resident Vickie Casas told a Los Angeles City Council committee that she urged her daughters to move to Culver City so they wouldn't have to walk past strip clubs. Casas has a daughter and a son, not two daughters, and her first name was misspelled as "Vicky."

The oversight happened because the school district was working with the city's Planning and Transportation departments on the new campus, but no one told officials in Building and Safety, which issues permits for adult businesses.

After the mix-up, Councilman Ed Reyes asked the council to make sure the two departments coordinate better.

Council members took the action even though it exposed the city to a possible lawsuit. But several council members said they would rather run that risk than have a strip club so close to a school.

The mistake comes at a time when Los Angeles officials are grappling with residents' anger at adult entertainment clubs all over town.

Later Wednesday afternoon, a council committee voted for the second time this summer to ban lap dancing in strip clubs. The proposed ordinance would require strippers and customers to remain at least six feet apart and would force club owners to renew their police permits annually to ensure compliance.

A different council committee approved the ban earlier this summer, and several other Los Angeles County cities have similar laws on the books. But after an outcry from strip club employees and owners, the full council postponed voting on it, saying it needed further study to make sure it could be enforced.

After Wednesday's vote, however, the ordinance could return to the full council soon after Labor Day.

Strip club owners vowed to keep fighting.

"How come other people can stand next to each other," said Jamal Haddad, owner of Frisky Kitty, a strip club in the San Fernando Valley, referring to the rule that would keep dancers and customers six feet from each other.

"It's unfair to the industry," Haddad said.

Roger Jon Diamond, who represents many of the clubs, compared lap dancing to performances at the Music Center such as "The Full Monty" and said strip club owners were "gearing up for a major fight" against the new rules.

If the council approves the ban, Diamond said, he will work to put a referendum before voters asking them to overturn the council and allow lap dancing across Los Angeles.

But residents who complain that activity inside strip clubs spills into their neighborhoods and destroys their quality of life cheered the new ordinance.

"It's wonderful," said Vicky Casas, a West Los Angeles resident who testified that she urged her grown daughters to move to Culver City so they would not have to walk home past strip clubs in the evenings.

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