Circuit judge rules against club

FRANKLIN – Circuit Judge Thomas Keadle ruled against the opening of a gentlemen’s club in Brandywine by granting a continuance of a restraining order asked for by the Pendleton County Commission and ordering a preliminary injunction until a hearing can be held.

The Pendleton County Commission filed the complaint against Pancakes, Biscuits and More LLC, also doing business as the Golden Angels Cabaret at 12590 Blue Gray Trail – U.S. 33 – in Brandywine.

The complaint for a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction was served by Sheriff Donald L. Hedrick on August 1, the day the establishment advertised it would open.

On April 19, 2005, an ordinance was enacted and signed by County Commissioners Robert Grimm, Kelly Hartman and Robert Armentrout to regulate the location of businesses offering exotic entertainment. It was passed in an “effort to promote the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the citizens of Pendleton County.”

The State Code gives county commissions the authority to regulate the location and signage of exotic entertainment businesses.

The Cabaret was slated to open July 25 when County Commission President Gene McConnell delivered a copy of the ordinance to the establishment because the business had not obtained a location permit, had not paid a $500 initial permit fee and was not in compliance with the ordinance.

The opening was delayed, but later advertised as August 1.

The cabaret, listed as owned by Robin Shifflett of Harrisonburg, violates the ordinance by locating within 2,500 feet of a private residence. A church also is in “close proximity” according to the complaint.

The ordinance prohibits the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages in a business offering exotic entertainment. The cabaret, described as a “gentleman’s club,” advertises BYOB (bring your own bottle) on its signage, which exceeds a 10-foot height limitation and contains female silhouettes. The ordinance also prohibits the “silhouette, drawing or a pictorial representation in any manner on a sign which can only contain the name of the enterprise.”

Defense attorney Floyd Sayre challenged the validity of the ordinance and said McConnell had no right to issue a complaint without the permission of the other two commissioners.

The cabaret was going to open up without any nude or semi-nude dancing, Sayre told the court.

“It would just be a bikini bar with something to cover up what shouldn’t be uncovered,” said Sayre, who indicated the Pendleton County ordinance goes beyond what the state allows.

Prosecutor Kevin Sponaugle said McConnell did not need to get permission.

“We have a valid ordinance that allows him to ask for an injunction,” Sponaugle said.

At no time did anyone contact anyone of authority in the county and inquire about exotic entertainment.

“They were trying to fly under the radar and attempt to deceive and cover up what the true establishment would be,” Sponaugle added.

The ordinance does not ban houses of exotic entertainment, just sets the parameters in feet, etc. to regulate the locations.

“We are doing what we were elected to do to uphold the laws and ordinances validly passed in our county,” Sponaugle said.

Sayre said the ordinance was against his client’s first amendment rights to express herself freely through dance.

Judle Keadle got Sayre to admit that ultimately the cabaret would include strip dancing.

Sayre said if the cabaret did not immediately offer nude dancing, then it was not established as an exotic entertainment facility and should not come under the ordinance.

“Our position is that we should be able to open,” he insisted.

“I don’t agree with your position, and a temporary injunction is granted,” Keadle said.