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CLUB: City Wins Court Fight : Beverly Hills Finally Wins Court Fight to Close Doors of Doheny Night Club

Times Staff Writer

The City of Beverly Hills has succeeded in closing Max 151, a club that aggravated its Doheny Drive neighbors with late night noise and by reportedly admitting non-members in violation of city law.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Norman Epstein last month granted the city’s request for a temporary injunction to close the private club. Epstein said Max 151 can reopen if it installs a fire-prevention sprinkler system and obtains an operating permit from the city.

Epstein’s action came at the end of four years of conflict in the courts, including the filing of an $11-million civil rights lawsuit a year ago by club owner Lonnie Simmons.

Simmons, a record company executive, claimed in the suit that the city denied him a permit to operate the club because he is black. Club spokesman Forest Hamilton said that the club’s black patrons were stopped and questioned by Beverly Hills police for no reason.

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“I think it is unfair that in America in 1985 that a person can’t go into Beverly Hills, which is a part of America, and operate a business without being harassed,” Hamilton said, “and without the city trying to put it out of business.”

Hamilton said that Chez Moi, a private club 11 blocks from Max 151, has been given preferential treatment by the city. Chez Moi was granted a permit in 1983 despite protests from neighbors about noise and litter, two of the same problems that led to Max 151’s permit being denied.

Simmons’ attorney said that he surveyed the area immediately around the club and found that only 10% of the residents had complained about noise and other problems and that many of the complaints dated back several years.

City officials have refused to comment on the civil rights suit, which is pending, and said the permit had been denied in 1981 because of noise, garbage and use of the club by non-members. The city presented declarations from neighbors to Judge Epstein that said that Max 151 brought noise and other disturbances to the area around 151 S. Doheny Drive. The Beverly Hills City Council denied the club a new permit in 1981.

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But the city could not get a court to close the club because the state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles was scheduled to hear an appeal questioning whether the city’s review of the permit application was valid.

When the appellate court refused to act, a path was cleared to close the club.

Max 151 has applied to the city for a private-club permit and plans to install the sprinkler system required by the city, Hamilton said.

Its previous permit lapsed as the case proceeded through the courts. But city officials refused to comment on the chances of the permit application winning approval. Business manager Janice Jackson, who heads the licensing office, said she had been told by the city attorney’s office not to talk about the case.

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