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Brea Bennett at Twistys

May 31, 2000 09:00pm
Former city attorney argues for nude dancing
Source: Private Dancer Magazine

(RIVIERA BEACH, FL) -- Nude dancing doesn't fall into the category of adult entertainment, the city's former attorney argued last month on behalf of a Singer Island nightclub.

Andrew DeGraffenreidt, whom the city council fired in September 1998, now represents the Fathoms Lounge, which closed down after getting slapped with numerous code violations.

DeGraffenreidt, now in private practice, oversaw the adoption of the city's 1994 "adult entertainment" law, which restricts such businesses to areas with industrial zoning and even then requires special permission from the city council.

Community Development Director Mary McKinney denied the club's request for a license in March because the club is in a commercial district.

DeGraffenreidt appealed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which heard his arguments. It doesn't matter where Fathoms is located, he says, because it's not an "adult establishment."

In a March 7 letter to the city, DeGraffenreidt wrote that the intent of the club's new owner, Johnny Now, "is not to provide sexual stimulation or gratification to customers" as the city law prohibits. Now is a well-respected nightclub owner in Fort Lauderdale, he added.

City Manager William Wilkins isn't worried about Fathoms reopening. "We have a good law," he said.

Fathoms Lounge introduced topless dancers in 1994, upsetting Singer Island residents and city officials. Former owner Charles Deitrich, battled with the city over code violations for years and was ordered to close down at least twice, city records show.

In 1994, the city filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the club to follow the new law. A 1995 ruling by Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Moses Baker said the club could either sell alcohol or feature nude dancers -- but couldn't do both.

The city council fired DeGraffenreidt for assigning too many city lawsuits to outside firms and for devoting city time to his private practice. DeGraffenreidt sued, claiming breach of contract. A settlement paid him $120,000.

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