Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 19, 2013

Strip club case heads to court Tuesday

City wants near southside club shut down

The city of Kokomo and the owners of the Tease strip club are due in court next week, with the city seeking to permanently close the near southside club.

City planning officials revoked the club’s grandfathered zoning status in December after the owners were cited for allegedly violating the city’s zoning ordinance.

Without that “legal non-conforming use” status, the club can’t continue to operate as a sexually-oriented business.

The city’s zoning laws for sexually-oriented businesses passed in 2002, just after the Tease (then known as The Body Shop) began operating.

By starting up just ahead of the new ordinance, the Tease’s owners were guaranteed the right to operate as a strip club, despite the fact the building didn’t meet the setbacks required by the 2002 law. Under that ordinance, a strip club can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a state highway or within 1,000 feet of a church or a school.

The only caveat was that to remain a legal non-conforming use, the strip club couldn’t be expanded beyond 10 percent of its current size. Under the law, the club could only expand twice, and each time it expanded, it was subject to the 10 percent rule.

City officials said the new owners of the club, Brett Morrow and Dustin Ogle, performed one expansion last year, which added 19 percent more space to the club’s former size.

In a brief filed with Howard Superior Court 1 Judge William Menges, the club owners say the city failed to show evidence for claims the club was expanded by 19 percent in one shot.

City officials, however, say floor plans, submitted in 2003 and 2012 to the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, clearly show a wall dividing the club from a separate business space. For years, the Comarella photography studio was located on the other side of the wall from the strip club, and in a response brief, city officials note the former photography business, at 101 E. Markland Ave., and the strip club, at 107 E. Markland Ave., had different addresses.

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