Judge: Tiffany’s has to reapply to reopen

NEW CUMBERLAND–A Hancock County strip club may have to go back to square one if it wants to reopen, now that the owner has received an adverse ruling from a judge.

Earlier this month, Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Jason Cuomo found that the owner of Tiffany’s Dolls Cabaret had not exhausted its legal remedies and, thus, was premature in seeking a court order that would have allowed it to reopen without reapplying for an adult entertainment license from the county.

“Petitioners (FST Properties LLC) were not without recourse. Petitioner could have and should have filed a renewal application with the appropriate department within the Hancock County Commission. Petitioner did not,” Cuomo said. “A granting of that application would obviate the need for petitioner’s writ. On the other hand, a denial of that application could have led to an appeal with the Hancock County Commission itself.”

The strip club, 7754 Ohio River Blvd., relinquished its liquor license after a shooting incident on Sept. 18, 2015, forced it to close for a 10-day “cooling off” period and beyond. Hancock County sheriff’s deputies recovered multiple shell casings from the parking lot and the front door area.

For months, the windowless, mauve building on state Route 2 looked like it was vacant as the grass grew tall and no traffic could be seen coming or going. Then, in the spring, Weirton attorney Michael Nogay made inquiries to county attorney Michael Lucas III about the club’s status with the county and the possibility of it reopening.

Nogay said the club should not be considered abandoned under the abandonment provision in the county’s Adults-Only Establishment Location Ordinance, which was adopted 2004 and amended in 2007.

The provision states that an establishment is considered abandoned if it goes unused for 60 days, triggering a reapplication process. Nogay said the county’s 60-day standard has been superseded by West Virginia Code, which defines abandonment as one year of non-use.

The club had been operating since at least 1999 and had been “grandfathered” into the county’s ordinance.

In September, the club, now represented by East Liverpool attorneys Joseph Ludovici and Ian Masters, filed paperwork in Circuit Court asking for a writ that would allow it to reopen–and put a sign out front saying that it was reopening as of Sept. 15. Whether it intended to do so as a nude club or a bikini bar was unclear.

Lucas then asked Cuomo to quash the club’s petition, saying that it was premature. He said the club’s inquiries about reopening should have been directed to the county commission, which is responsible for granting adult entertainment licenses.

“Petitioners have essentially skipped the entire administrative process which could have served as the foundation for their pleadings, and have consequently left themselves no basis upon which to make their claims,” Lucas said.

In his order granting Lucas’ motion to quash writs, Cuomo agreed with the county. “There is no evidence in the record before this court that any renewal application was ever sought by the petitioner,” Cuomo said, “let alone an appeal to the (county commission) for a denial that has yet to even occur.”

Cuomo’s ruling likely means that the club will have to reapply for an adult entertainment license if it wants to reopen. The club had not done so as of the day before Thanksgiving, said Director of Technology and Communications Robert Vidas.

Ludovici could not be reached for comment.