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Judge Orders City to Issue Entertainment Permit : Corona Must Allow Wrestling, Dancing at Bar

Times Staff Writer

The Corona City Council must allow female “oil” wrestling and exotic male dancing at a tavern on the city’s east side, a Riverside County Superior Court judge ordered Monday.

Judge J. David Hennigan ordered the city to issue the required entertainment permit to the Bootleggers bar on Magnolia Street, saying the dancing and wrestling are forms of expression protected by the First Amendment.

But Hennigan stopped short of declaring the city’s entertainment license law unconstitutional, a claim made by Walter Ingalls, the Riverside attorney representing the bar’s owner, Andrew Papac’s Corona-Magnolia Enterprises Inc.

“Without invalidating the ordinance as unconstitutional or addressing that issue,” Ingalls said, "(Hennigan) found that the conduct was protected. Therefore, the city has a greater burden than (it has when) regulating other kinds of licensed activities.”

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In this case, Ingalls said, the city “did not meet the burden of its own ordinance, in providing evidence that this conduct was derogatory to the general welfare or public safety.”

‘No Factual Information’

The judge “agreed with our contention that there was really no factual information that this kind of activity presents any greater problem than (do) other establishments serving alcohol,” Ingalls said.

The Corona City Council rejected by a 4-1 margin Papac’s original permit request April 3, following the recommendation of Sam Lowery, the city’s acting police chief.

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Lowery told the council that similar entertainment had caused “a considerable police problem” in other communities and would place an unreasonable burden on the Corona Police Department.

Private security officers, Lowery also said, would be an insufficient substitute for the police presence that the proposed entertainment would require.

Papac sought and received a court order directing the council to either reverse itself or appear in court to explain its action. The council chose the latter course at a closed session May 1.

Meredith Jury, the attorney representing the city at Monday’s court hearing, argued that Lowery’s statement to the council was, in fact, sufficient grounds to refuse the permit application.

But Hennigan ruled “the city hadn’t presented substantial evidence that any harm to public welfare would occur,” Jury said in an interview.

Request Granted

The judge granted Papac’s request for an order directing the city to issue the permit. Jury said she did not know whether further City Council action will be necessary.

“I haven’t seen the order,” she said. “It depends how it reads.”

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Hennigan made no finding on Papac’s claim that the council had violated the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, by discussing the permit application in a closed session, thus denying the bar owner’s request for reimbursement of his attorney’s fees.

Anne Thomas, another Corona city attorney from the Riverside firm of Best, Best and Krieger, claimed the closed meeting was allowable under the Brown Act, because the council’s action would create “a significant exposure to litigation” for the city.

“It cost my client a lot of time and money, lost revenues and attorneys’ fees to sustain his position,” Ingalls said Monday. In April, the attorney estimated that exotic male dancing alone would bring Bootleggers $7,000 a week in additional business.

“It’s my understanding that (the exotic male dancing) will start this Friday evening if all goes well,” Ingalls said.


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