Two Nightclubs Get Their Acts Together for New Legal Battle

Times Staff Writer

Two Los Angeles nightclubs battling the city to keep their doors open have joined forces in a partnership that may bring more legal trouble for both.

While a judge upheld the closing of Chippendales’ West Los Angeles club Friday, the owner of the beleaguered male strip emporium said he has moved his show to an establishment with its own share of legal troubles--the Wall Street nightclub in the Mid-Wilshire area.

Owners of Wall Street, who are appealing to the state Court of Appeals their recent failure to bar enforcement of a midnight curfew and ban on dancing imposed by the city, struck a deal earlier this week with Chippendales’ owner Steve Banerjee while his attorneys attempted to block Fire Department plans to close the club for overcrowding.

Prepared to Fight

Residents of the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood around the Wall Street, who have been savoring the quiet, less-crowded conditions in the area since the club’s Aug. 22 loss in court, said they are prepared to fight to dissolve the nightclub partnership.

Aides in the office of Councilman John Ferraro, who represents the district, said Friday that a zoning code in the area makes the Chippendale show illegal.


“It may well be that such a performance would be in violation of the zoning ordinance for that area which prohibits certain amusement enterprises, including a strip tease show,” Ferraro said in a statement.

Chippendales features a stage show in which male dancers strip to G-strings. “What he (Ferraro) is referring to is an ordinance that prohibits adult entertainment,” Chippendale spokesman Dan Escamilla said.

“Strip tease means nudity, but in our show there is no nudity,” Banerjee asserted, promising that he will fight city attempts to close the show if he is accused of violating the zoning code.

Police to Enforce

Assistant City Atty. Byron Boeckman disagreed with Banerjee’s interpretation and said it would be up to police to enforce the zoning ordinance. Wilshire Vice Division Sgt. Stan Embry said late Friday that police were still investigating the matter.

Banerjee was contacted by the Mid-Wilshire nightclub two months ago, according to Wall Street co-owner and general manager Charles Glenn. He said he is willing to face any challenge presented by area residents who successfully protested the late-night dance club and the revelers it brought into the largely residential area.

“I’m sure they will (fight Chippendales). I’m ready. I know my rights,” he said.

Fire Department Limit

Glenn also promised to be diligent in keeping the number of club occupants within the Fire Department’s prescribed limit, which at more than 500 nearly doubles the number of patrons Chippendales could pack in at its former West Los Angeles site at 3739 Overland Ave.

The Fire Department moved to revoke Chippendales’ fire permit after it had exceeded its 299-person limit 14 times since 1983.

Chippendales lost its liquor license two months ago and the move to the Wall Street will allow its mostly female clientele to drink while the male strippers dance.

Mid-Wilshire residents Friday said they were surprised and dismayed by the move of the strip show into what was once the historic El Rey Theatre at 5517 Wilshire Blvd.

“For the last week, it’s been heaven, we’ve been able to sleep well, park in front of our own apartments,” said Jackie Smaydy.

‘I ill Fight It’

“I remember the days when the men were paying for the women; now, its the other way around,” she said. “I will fight it and so will everyone in the neighborhood.”

But one woman said she is ready to give up. “Our reaction was total shock because we have been fighting that club for two years,” said Dorothy Shadley, who lives in an apartment building she owns next to the Wall Street.

“It’s taken away the serenity of the whole community. I’m selling my property and moving away.”