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SANTA ANA HEIGHTS : Club Faces Fines for Violating Ordinance

A local nightclub owner and his dancers face thousands of dollars in possible fines and jail time after an Orange County Superior Court judge found the club had violated a county ordinance prohibiting topless shows.

Declining an invitation to view a live exhibition of makeup techniques used by dancers to comply with the county law, Judge Robert A. Knox last week found the Laff Stop in contempt and ordered sentencing for late next month.

The ruling follows a series of court actions related to the topless show prohibition.

Attempts to reach club attorney Paul Mast and managing partner Jorn S. Rossi on Monday were unsuccessful.

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The county ordinance outlaws such entertainment within 500 feet of a residential community.

The Laff Stop is located on the fringe of unincorporated Santa Ana Heights, near John Wayne Airport.

Since last December, when a permanent injunction was issued against topless dancing there, Deputy County Counsel Thomas C. Agin said, performers began experimenting with latex and other makeup to cover their breasts and comply with the law.

During the court hearing Friday, Laff Stop officials used mannequins to show how the makeup was used, Agin said.

At one point, they offered to show the judge how the application appeared on a live model.

“They had a young lady there with the makeup already applied, and they offered to have her open her jacket,” Agin said, adding that the judge declined.

Agin said that the makeup, while an attempt to cover the dancers, actually allowed them to appear as if they were performing topless.

“If customers are led to believe that they are dancing topless, that violates the ordinance,” Agin said.

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A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 22, and Agin said that both Rossi and the dancers face fines of up to $1,000 each and five days in jail for each day the club was in violation of the law.

The county contends that the club has been in violation for nearly 60 days.

Agin estimated that up to 20 dancers were served with injunction papers late last year, but he was unsure how many have continued to perform in violation of the county ordinance.

“One of the problems we’re facing is that as soon as you think you served (papers on) everybody, they have a whole new crew working in there,” he said. “It’s a business with very high turnover.”

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Agin said the club could continue operation as long as the dancers were properly clothed.

Club owners and the county have been at odds since the Laff Stop, which once featured such comedians as David Letterman and Robin Williams, was converted to topless dancing in February, 1993.

Rossi made the change without first obtaining adult entertainment permits from the county.

In an attempt to remain open, he filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging that the county’s zoning ordinances do not apply to Santa Ana Heights.

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