Duluth police ask alcohol commission to review strip club's license
Alleging that drug sales, drug use, thefts, fights and vulgar sex acts are occurring on the premises, Duluth police are asking the city's Alcohol, Gambling and Tobacco Commission to consider suspending or revoking the liquor license of the NorSho...
Alleging that drug sales, drug use, thefts, fights and vulgar sex acts are occurring on the premises, Duluth police are asking the city's Alcohol, Gambling and Tobacco Commission to consider suspending or revoking the liquor license of the NorShor Experience.
The establishment at 211 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth bills itself as a gentleman's club providing live nude entertainment six nights a week with lap dancers available for an additional charge.
Police say the club has failed to maintain order and is operating a public nuisance. Officers have been called to the establishment at least 49 times since September. Further, the NorShor has not cooperated with enforcement of reasonable rules, nor obeyed laws, according to a notice and order for a July 16 hearing issued by the Alcohol, Gambling and Tobacco Commission and the city attorney's office.
The document alleges that, with the club manager present, strip tease dancers displayed and manipulated sex organs in violation of Minnesota law and continued to do so after being warned by police.
Jim Gradishar, president of the NorShor Experience, provided a brief comment and referred questions to his attorney.
"I'm a little bit perplexed,'' Gradishar said. "We want to work with the city and police as much as possible to try to get these things rectified.''
Randall Tigue, a Golden Valley, Minn., attorney representing Gradishar, said he has requested the police reports of the incidents at the business.
"It took a federal court injunction to get this establishment open, and it's clear that the city has never been comfortable with that injunction and is obviously trying to trump up anything it can to get the place closed down,'' Tigue said.
Deputy City Attorney Alison Lutterman referred questions to Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
Ramsay rejected Tigue's argument.
"Our law enforcement efforts are based on what the community desires,'' Ramsay said. "If you talk to businesses on that block and in that surrounding area it's obvious there's a problem there. Look at our calls for service in that area.''
Police say the club has also served intoxicated customers and has allowed customers to take alcoholic beverages off the premises.
Tigue was asked how he would defend the business to the commission.
"Some of the defense is going to relate to the fact that while certain fights have taken place on the premises, the NorShor is certainly no worse than any other bar in Duluth featuring live entertainment,'' Tigue said. "Probably the most profound statement ever made about the relationship between land use and crime was Willie Sutton's answer to the question, 'Why do you rob banks?' The answer of course is because that's where the money is. Any use of a commercial nature is going to generate some criminal activity and any use that involves the serving of alcohol is going to generate some law enforcement problems. I believe the evidence will show that NorShor is certainly no worse than any other commercial activity that involves the sale of alcohol.''
Duluth police Lt. Eric Rish disagrees.
"The [police] calls for service were getting more and more serious,'' Rish said. "There was an assault there. There was a gun call in May. ... To my amazement there was criminal activity detected there even when we had patrol officers doing walk throughs. There was an arrest when an officer went into a spot where employees were and they could smell marijuana. Ultimately, that entertainer-dancer gets arrested on a warrant and she's found in possession of a marijuana cigarette.''
Tigue labeled the allegations of illegal sex being performed at the club as frivolous and said they do not constitute a violation of the obscenity law.
The order for the hearing before the alcohol commission also alleges that Gradishar was intoxicated and carrying a concealed handgun at the club on May 2. He had a permit to carry the weapon, but it's a misdemeanor to be intoxicated while doing so. He has a court date set for July 15 on the charge.
However, Duluth defense attorney Richard Holmstrom, who is representing Gradishar on the charge, said his client committed no crime. "Where the incident occurred, he was outside the scope of the conceal and carry law,'' Holmstrom said. "He was in his own business and you're entitled to have a firearm in your own business. It has nothing to do with conceal and carry. The alcohol restrictions do not apply.''