Court orders closure of 'Heaven' strip club

August 19, 2009 4:11:56 PM PDT
A judge Wednesday granted San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's motion to immediately close a North Beach strip club that allegedly violated city codes and had been cited for prostitution, according to the city attorney's office.

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The civil injunction granted Wednesday morning by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlotte Walter Woolard is the latest development in a confrontation between San Francisco and the Heaven Mini Theatre, which sued the city last September for allegedly selectively enforcing state and local laws.

According to Herrera's office, which filed the motion for a civil injunction in July, the club operates on the second floor above another adult establishment in violation of a city code that prohibits adult entertainment venues from operating within 1,000 feet of one another.

Additionally, the club never sought a permit authorizing commercial use and ignored repeated notices that it was in violation, the city attorney's office stated.

Police cited a female Heaven Mini Theatre employee for prostitution in March, according to court filings.

"Today's ruling should send a message to other would-be operators of illegal businesses that even 'Heaven' is subject to temporal laws here in San Francisco," Herrera said in a statement.

Greg Walston, the club's attorney, said the court's ruling "is so far beyond anything that judges should do."

Walston said the decision effectively took away the club's right to its day in court.

"In this country you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but we've done away with all that," he said. "They say skip the trial, skip the evidence, let's just shut this thing down today before we've even had any opportunity to provide evidence."

Walston said there are about 10 clubs on Columbus Avenue near Heaven, all of which are within 1,000 feet of each other, and that "the only one that gets enforced is one that doesn't have a longstanding relationship with city officials."

Walston said the club and owner Peter Lambertson plan to appeal the injunction but noted that the appeals process is lengthy and the club may not survive that long financially.

Today's ruling held that Heaven failed to demonstrate that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were granted, according to Herrera's office.

Herrera said that "it's regrettable that this business chose to expend so much effort to flout the law rather than to follow it, and that a preliminary injunction was necessary to shut it down."

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