Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bikini Bar Seeks Pact to Keep Its Lights on; Operators of Silver Fox Sued in Federal Court after City's Midnight Inspection Led to Power Being Shut Off

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bikini Bar Seeks Pact to Keep Its Lights on; Operators of Silver Fox Sued in Federal Court after City's Midnight Inspection Led to Power Being Shut Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

The owners of a bikini bar that Jacksonville inspectors shut down last year have won an agreement from city attorneys to seek new rules for surprise inspections.

The deal this week with operators of the Silver Fox on West Beaver Street could settle a federal lawsuit that argued members of the city's Drug Abatement Response Team (DART) shut off the electricity and kept the club closed for months for no good reason - and had done that before to other businesses.

"It was quite evident to us that the decision to shut down a business and cut off its electricity was made before they even left the station," said Gary Edinger, an attorney for club operator Beaver Street Inc. and its landlord, H&J Land investments.

The suit argued the club was targeted as part of a wave of action against bikini bars that violated bar dancers' rights to artistic expression.

City lawyers disputed that, with the deal both sides signed noting that "Jacksonville specifically denies any such violations."

City officials didn't respond to messages left by email and phone Wednesday.

The suit said a DART crew that included police, a fire chief, code-enforcement inspectors and a JEA worker went to the club after midnight one night in June 2013 for an unscheduled examination of the property.

Fire Chief Kevin Jones signed a cease-and-desist order for the business to close and told the JEA worker to shut off the building's electricity, the suit said.

The power was turned back on Feb. 28, a JEA spokeswoman said. The business has reopened since then, Edinger said, but he wasn't sure when.

The suit, filed in September 2013, said club operators tried to reopen earlier, but the city withdrew charges when the property owner went to a city hearing - but left an order in place to vacate the property. …

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