U.S. Judge Rules Md. County’s Strip Club Law Unconstitutional

Apr 6, 2009 7:00 AM PST
BALTIMORE — A federal judge Thursday struck down a Prince George’s County law that would have erased from the map most strip clubs that serve alcohol.

U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis ruled that the Maryland Legislature went too far with a law that would ban exotic dancing, peep shows and lap dances anywhere with a liquor license, finding it would place unconstitutional limits on free speech while violating the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

The ruling is a victory for the Legend Night Club of Prince George’s County and its co-plaintiff, the Classics Nightclub, which challenged the law after it was passed in 2005.

The law, which barred nightclub dancers from presenting entertainment that includes or simulates touching and exposure of the breasts, buttocks and genitals, was instituted in 2005, but Legends and Classics won a preliminary injunction shortly after, allowing them to continue to operate.

"The legislation would prohibit any existing, or new, liquor licensee from starting to present serious artistic performers that would violate the restrictions," Garbis wrote.

Garbis said that the law, known as Prince George’s County Bill, PG-300, had an interesting twist to it.

Legislators had sculpted a very particular grandfather clause into the bill, allowing any nightclub that received an adult entertainment license before Aug. 15, 1981, to remain in business.

The federal judge ruled foul, because not so coincidentally the former Maryland state senator Tommie Broadwater owns a gentlemen’s club that received a license on Aug. 14, 1981.

“The court finds plaintiffs to have established beyond any reasonable doubt, that the legislation's ‘grandfather clause’ was deliberately crafted to favor the potentially connected former senator,” Garbis wrote.

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