Cabaret opens in Pendleton County

The Golden Angel Cabaret is open for business as a BYOB (bring your own bottle) private gentleman’s club with a disc jockey and dancing but no nude, seminude or bikini dancing.

Thursday evening – after a status hearing during which Circuit Judge H. Charles Carl III upheld an earlier temporary injunction against opening the club because it was contrary to a county ordinance on exotic entertainment – owner Robin Shifflett informed her attorney Floyd M. Sayre III that she was going to open the facility, but not offer nude or near nude dancing, Sayre said.

Deciding that he needed to inform the county, Sayre on Friday morning informed Pendleton County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Sponaugle of his client’s intentions. Sponaugle immediately prepared a motion to enforce the preliminary injunction to prevent the opening. Sponaugle wanted to know what kind of business was going to be operated. He insisted the cabaret should do nothing until the judge decided.

On Friday at 1 p.m., the judge held a conference call and questioned the business. Sayre indicated that the business was going to provide a DJ, but said there would be no girls. Sayre also said customers will be permitted to bring their own bottles, and the cabaret will serve finger foods.

When asked if the cabaret had secured the necessary food and food handler permits, Sayre said they were going to serve things such as chips in bags.

The judge made it clear as long as they did not have nude, seminude or bikini-clad dancing, they could open. However, if the judge found out more was going on, then they would come back to court, Sponaugle said.

“The judge said he would not be happy if that occurred,” Sponaugle said.

At the status hearing held in Franklin on Thursday, Carl had upheld an Aug. 4 temporary injunction against opening any kind of establishment until a pending federal suit is concluded.

“After the federal court rules, then we can have a permanent injunction hearing (in this court), if it is needed. You’ve tied my hands until the federal court hearing is completed,” Carl said at the time.

Golden Angels Cabaret, also doing business as Pancakes, Biscuits, and More, LLC, located on U.S. Route 33, filed the suit against the Pendleton County Commission in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on Aug. 13.

The federal suit argues a county ordinance regulating the location of businesses offering exotic entertainment is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right and the guarantee of free speech in the West Virginia Constitution.

The First Amendment declares Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech. Sayre argued that the county ordinance treats exotic entertainment differently from other forms of speech. Also, prior to the enactment, Pendleton County failed to provide evidence that exotic entertainment has negative secondary effects upon the community.

The April 2005 county ordinance was passed after the closure of the Cadillac Ranch in Sugar Grove for drug violations. The ordinance was passed in accordance with the State Code, which gives county commissions the authority to regulate the location and signage of exotic entertainment businesses, according to Sponaugle.

The cabaret violates the ordinance by locating within 2,500 feet of a private residence and an apartment building with a church in close proximity.

The ordinance also prohibits the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages in a business offering exotic entertainment. The cabaret, described as a “gentleman’s club,” advertises BYOB on its sign.

The cabaret was slated to open on July 25 when County Commission President Gene McConnell hand-delivered a copy of the ordinance to the establishment, which was also in noncompliance because it had not obtained a location permit nor had it paid a $500 initial permit fee.

The opening was delayed, but later advertised as Aug. 1 when Pendleton County Sheriff Donald L. Hedrick delivered a complaint for a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction.

At the status hearing Sayre said he and his client understood the law, “but where in the ordinance does it say we can’t open as a non-nude, non seminude facility?”

Robin Shifflett has put her life savings in this project and is the only person in the entire state of West Virginia prohibited from offering non-nude, nonseminude dancing, Sayre claimed, and “that’s clearly unfair!” the attorney added.

Now a large sign on the front of the cabaret reads, “no exotic dancing.”