Madonna Strip Club Cites First Amendment In Bid To Reopen

, Daily Business Review

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Club Madonna, a Miami Beach strip club, is suing the city in federal court in a bid to reverse its shutdown.

Shuttered after authorities alleged it allowed a 13-year-old girl to work the stripper pole, a Miami Beach erotic club is citing the First Amendment in a federal court bid to reopen its doors.

Club Madonna, a strip club at 1527 Washington Ave., is suing the city in a bid to reverse the municipally mandated closure of that venue.

On Friday, the city revoked Club Madonna's certificate of use for six months, noting the state investigation into the alleged sexual exploitation of a child. Specifically, City Manager Jimmy Morales cited news reports where Madonna's owner said he heard the girl, a young runaway, had performed in the club but had no first-hand knowledge of it.

Morales wrote in the revocation order that "the owner's admitted failure to have the required knowledge of what illegal activity occurs at Club Madonna" presents "an actual threat to the public health, welfare and safety of the residents of Miami Beach."

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Club Madonna claimed yanking its business license was an unwarranted violation of its First Amendment rights, was a capricious and arbitrary action, and was done in retaliation for previous legal squabbles.

Club Madonna objected to the characterization of alleged illegal activity as an "actual" threat to the public since the club management said it has taken steps to prevent such an incident from occurring again.

"There were no exigent circumstances or serious danger present which would justify the issuance of the revocation order without pre-deprivation notice and an opportunity to be heard," the lawsuit reads. The complaint was filed by Richard Wolfe of Wolfe Law in Miami. His co-counsel are Daniel Robert Aaronson and James Scott Benjamin of Benjamin & Aaronson in Fort Lauderdale.

The club ownership also questioned the city's authority to close the venue for six months "as opposed to, for argument's sake, six days."

On its First Amendment claims, the club said it "believes that providing this form of expressive communication to the public is a beneficial social activity which enhances individual's ability to assimilate and consider various issues involving sexual candor and the interest in human sexuality that all human beings have to a greater or lesser degree."

Club Madonna has sued the city several times in the past, mostly to reverse an ordinance banning alcohol sales. In its suit, the business alleges the revocation is at least in part a retaliation for those earlier legal actions.

At a City Commission meeting Wednesday, commissioners suggested they were keeping a close eye on the situation with Club Madonna. Near the beginning the meeting, Commissioner Jonah Wolfson suggested discussing a way to limit the club's operations once it reopened, asking the city attorney about the possibility of setting up "a licensing process so people are screened before they're allowed to enter that profession ... so we can play a role in regulating who's allowed to be a stripper."

"Also, can you look into closing, just closing down that business?" added Commissioner Edward Tobin, as several other commissioners nodded.

The topic was not immediately taken up at the suggestion of City Attorney Jose Smith, who cited the newly filed federal lawsuit. It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami.

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