R.I. city can’t deny permit for gay strip club

Thursday, November 15, 2001

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A federal judge has ruled that a city board violated the U.S. Constitution by rejecting a businessman’s request for a license to open a gay strip club.

U.S. District Judge Ronald R. Lagueux said the Board of Licenses illegally turned down Alan Bogossian’s request to get various licenses to open “Brief Encounters” and “Saints & Sinners” to cater to the gay community.

“The First Amendment makes no distinction between male strippers and female strippers,” Lagueux wrote in a 21-page decision filed Nov. 13. “It protects nude and semi-nude dancing, regardless of the size of the breasts on display.”

The judge ordered the city to issue an adult entertainment license and grant a transfer of an existing liquor license, concluding that there is a “high probability” that the city board would continue to violate the Constitution unless the order were issued.

Board members voted 4-1 in October 1999 to reject the licenses even though the club was proposed for a section of the city that is zoned heavy industrial, which allows adult entertainment.

In transcripts of the meetings on the matter, board members and some area residents said they objected to the club because the area already has a number of X-rated and adult
entertainment clubs and shops.

The city’s attorney could not be reached after regular business hours yesterday. Neither Bogossian nor his attorney, John Reilly, could be reached for comment.

In his decision, Lagueux referred to an earlier ruling he had issued on a similar issue. He said the government can impose “reasonable time, place and manner restrictions” on adult entertainment, in response to such concerns as increased crime, but cannot “forbid protected speech.”

“Ultimately, the license was only denied because the proposed establishment was for adult entertainment,” the judge wrote.

“This is not a reasonable time, place and manner restriction, but rather is state action restricting speech on the basis of its content.

“It is absolutely, without a doubt, unconstitutional.”

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