Ordinance Fight Nothing New To Club Owners
The attorney for Deja Vu Gentlemen’s Club said his bosses will sue Spokane County over rules requiring scantily clad dancers to stay at least 4 feet from their customers.
Those who keep tabs on the adult entertainment industry would expect nothing less of Roger Forbes of Seattle, the majority partner of the seven Deja Vu clubs in Washington.
Forbes and other leaders in the adult entertainment industry seldom let a regulation stand without challenge, and they have the money to take up seemingly hopeless cases, those who have battled them say.
They rarely win major victories in Washington, but often prevent enforcement of rules for years while cases are pending.
The city of Spokane still cannot enforce its 1993 adult arcade regulations, for instance, even though the city has won most challenges. Some appeals are still pending.
Regulators and the public know little about Forbes and his partner, Harry Mohney of Michigan, who tend to avoid media attention.
Mohney, a father of four, got into the business in the late 1960s as an act of desperation, the Detroit Free Press reported. His drive-in theater in Saginaw couldn’t make a profit on family movies or horror flicks, but thrived on X-rated movies.
In 1990, federal prosecutors called Mohney the nation’s second-largest purveyor of pornography and estimated his net worth at more than $100 million. That year, he was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary.
Prosecutors said Mohney held interest in more than 100 cabarets, peep shows, movie theaters and book stores in 15 states. He also produced X-rated movies.
Contacted at Deja Vu Consulting, the Lansing, Mich., headquarters for the chain of nightclubs, Mohney downplayed his role in the business.
“I’m just a shareholder,” he said, declining an interview. “I own shares in General Motors, too, but no one calls me to ask about that company.”
Forbes’ secretary said he was out of town this week and last.
Spokane dancer Michelle White described Forbes as “a big teddy bear type of a guy” who comes to Spokane frequently.
“He takes care of a lot of problems when he’s in town,” she said.
Forbes came into prominence in the early 1980s by fighting the city of Renton over regulations limiting adult entertainment to certain neighborhoods. Forbes owned two theaters straddling the city’s Third Avenue.
In a major blow for the industry, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Renton’s law, ruling that communities could regulate adult entertainment as long as they did not ban the businesses outright. Forbes was forced to close the theaters.
In May, Forbes and his chief competitor, Frank Colacurcio Jr., lost another landmark case. The state Supreme Court upheld Bellevue’s 1994 ordinance, which is nearly identical to the one passed in Spokane County.
Jack Burns, Forbes’ attorney since 1976, said he’ll fight Spokane County by arguing that the new rules are so strict they’ll force Deja Vu out of business.
The judge in the Bellevue case was sympathetic to the argument, but said there was no evidence of damages. Burns said he now has the proof he needs.
According to Burns, Deja Vu in Federal Way was making $500,000 a year before that Western Washington city imposed a 4-foot rule. Now, it’s losing $500,000 a year. The results of the regulations were similar in Bellevue, where Colacurcio closed a nightclub called Papagayos. Burns said it was losing money.
Stephen Smith, a Seattle attorney who represented the city of Bellevue, predicted Deja Vu won’t win by arguing financial hardship. Otherwise, he said, government couldn’t outlaw prostitution, drug-dealing or paid assassinations.
Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Patti Walker said Deja Vu should be able to make money despite the new rules. She notes that clubs survive in other cities while offering only stage dancing.
“If what’s valued there is a great dancer, then they’ll continue to make money,” she said.