Lawsuit by Phantom Ventures Will Move to Federal Court

December 31, 2015
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The City’s attorneys and attorneys for the so-called ‘suit and tie’ strip club (Phantom Ventures) proposed for the old King Arthur’s site on Beacham Street will appear in Federal Court on Tuesday, Jan. 5, for an initial appearance in the case.

Phantom Ventures originally filed the suit in state court on Oct. 24, but late last month it was removed from state court and re-filed in Boston’s Federal Court due to the extensive First Amendment issues that are at play in the case.

“Our case is being handled by the City’s insurer,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand our insurer sought removal of the case to Federal Court based upon the claims by King Arthur’s of 1st Amendment violations.”

The initial appearance on Jan. 5 will come before District Judge Indira Talwani at 11:30 a.m.

It is expected that the beginnings of the case will be discussed, booking dates for hearings and discovery, as well as a discussion of resolving the case immediately.

After major backlash from the community and the City, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) rejected the proposal unanimously during a hearing in Chelsea on Sept. 1. Officially, in a 3-0 vote, they agreed to uphold the decision of the Building Inspector not to issue a building permit due to the use not being allowed.

Phantom Ventures argues that nude dancing is art and so they should be able to use the location for a strip club because nude dancing has been deemed a form of artistic expression. ZBA and City officials disagree, saying their art use designation is strictly for artists who would be seeking live-work space, not a nude dancing business.

Another argument in the case indicates that the City’s Adult Entertainment ordinance doesn’t say anything about nude dancing, but only adult bookstores and adult movie houses. Therefore, since it isn’t spelled out in the ordinance, the use is allowed.

“The Zoning Enforcement Officer determined, and the ZBA agreed, that the use of the Property for live nude dancing with the sale of food and alcohol fell within the ‘Adult Entertainment Establishment’ use category in the Chelsea Zoning Ordinance, which is not permitted in the Industrial Zoning District in which the Property is located,” read the suit, authored by Attorney Kendra Kinscherf of Davis, Malm and D’agostina. “For the reasons set forth herein, the ZBA’s decision exceeded its authority and was arbitrary and capricious because the Ordinance limits the Adult Entertainment Establishment use category to adult bookstores and movie theaters. The Property will not be used as a bookstore or movie theater, and the proposed use of live nude dancing falls within the ‘Art Use’ category, which is allowed as of right. Accordingly, the ZBA’s decision must be annulled.”

Phantom Ventures’ case has eight counts:

  • Allowing the ‘art use.’
  • Grandfathering the use from King Arthur’s
  • A claim that the ZBA violated the company’s Constitutional Rights under the First Amendment.
  • Damages for injuries as a result of violating those Rights.
  • Attorney fees and costs.
  • Annulling the ZBA decision.
  • A claim that the ZBA violated the Constitutional Rights under the Massachusetts Constitution.
  • Granting any other necessary relief.

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