San Diego

Strip Club Still Open While California Vows Legal Action

The clubs have said they operate safely by keeping dancers six feet or more apart and require everyone, including performers, to wear masks

Cheetahs Gentlemen's Club in Kearny Mesa.

A San Diego strip club kept on offering live adult entertainment over the weekend despite a warning from California’s attorney general, who has vowed to take legal action if the business does not close to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order that was issued this month.

Jason Saccuzzo, the lawyer for Pacers Showgirls International, said Monday that a court order issued last month makes it clear the business is protected from restrictions issued by San Diego County and state officials.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a cease-and-desist letter sent to Pacers and Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club last Friday that they are violating the state’s new stay-at-home policy, which bars indoor and outdoor dining and prohibits social gatherings that bring together people of different households in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Becerra wrote that he was acting on behalf of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and the California Department of Public Health and that he will pursue legal action if the companies don’t comply.

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Pacers’ lawyer said he planned to reach out to the state Monday to get clarity.

“Our view is the existing order from the court allows us to have live adult entertainment and I don’t think the state issuing a cease-and-desist letter trumps the court order," Saccuzzo said. “But we are still considering our options."

The preliminary injunction expires Wednesday, when a hearing is scheduled to discuss whether to extend it.

Steve Hoffman, the attorney representing Cheetahs, said the club was closed Monday and will remain shuttered through Tuesday for reasons unrelated to the cease-and-desist letter from the state issued last Friday.

He declined to say why the club was closed and said he did not know if Cheetahs was open over the weekend. Both lawyers said they are awaiting a decision from the judge on Wednesday.

The state order issued Dec. 6 covers Southern California and is based on the level of available beds in hospitals' intensive care units.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil sided with the clubs when he granted the injunction on Nov. 6, saying adult live entertainment is “constitutionally protected speech” and said the harm would be greater to the businesses than to the government.

That argument set the strip clubs apart from restaurants or gyms, whose pleas to allow indoor activity was rejected by another San Diego judge last month when the county moved into the state’s most restrictive tier because of spiraling coronavirus cases.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel said that the potential harm from undercutting the state’s COVID-19 response outweighed damage to the affected businesses.

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County officials have said they cannot take action against the clubs while the injunction is in place even though there is a new stay-at-home order, but they will appeal if it is not lifted.

The clubs sued the county in October after county officials ordered them to close.

The clubs have said they operate safely by keeping dancers six feet (1.8 meters) or more apart and require everyone, including performers, to wear masks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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