“The legal battle is far from over,” said John Anthony Picerno, an attorney for Bazooka’s and Main Street Realty Co.
Bazooka’s foes win court test Judge clears way for public referendum about relocation.
CHRIS LESTER Staff Writer
PUBLICATION: The Kansas City Star
SECTION: JOHNSON COUNTY/METRO
DATE: April 10, 1996
EDITION: JOHNSON COUNTY
A Jackson County judge Tuesday cleared the way for a public referendum on relocating Bazooka’s Showgirls juice bar from Midtown to a business district between Downtown and Crown Center.
In a four-page order, Circuit Court Judge Jon R. Gray rejected an effort to block a petition gathered by would-be neighbors of the strip club. In doing so, Gray set the stage for a possible August vote.
“I’m so elated I can’t believe it,” said Eugene Novorr, president of the Crossroads Local Development Corp., an association of area businesses and residents. “We’re more determined than ever to keep them out. ” The battle over Bazooka’s has been brewing for months. The City Council last fall approved adult entertainment zoning to allow Bazooka’s and the Dove Theatre to move from the 3300 block of Main Street to 1717 Main St. The move helped make way for development of the Midtown Marketplace, part of the so-called Glover plan for Midtown redevelopment.
But the Novorr-led Crossroads group mounted a petition drive that gathered more than enough signatures to place the issue on a city ballot. In response, the owners of the building that would become the new Bazooka’s filed a lawsuit to prohibit that referendum.
“The legal battle is far from over,” said John Anthony Picerno, an attorney for Bazooka’s and Main Street Realty Co. “It’s just beginning. We feel our constitutional rights are being violated. ” Bazooka’s attorneys argue that submitting the zoning ordinance to a vote would violate their right to free speech. If voters reject the ordinance, an adult bookstore and adult entertainment business could not legally operate at the site.
But Gray rejected that argument.
“A referendum is an important, albeit seldom used, component of the city’s legislative decision making retained by the citizens of the city of Kansas City, Missouri, when the City Charter was approved,” Gray wrote.
The City Council last fall vote 9-4 to support the rezoning for Bazooka’s move. But city attorneys officially weighed in during the lawsuit on the side of Bazooka’s opponents.
“The city defended the charter, which provides for a referendum process,” said Galen Beaufort, assistant city attorney. Beaufort said the next available election date is in August.
The Bazooka’s battle may well set precedent in Missouri and nationally. Gray noted that the issue of whether submitting an adult zoning classification for a public vote violates the First Amendment has never been decided.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that exotic dancing is a protected form of free expression.
Bazooka’s is scheduled to move out of its Midtown location, designated for demolition to make way for the Midtown Marketplace, at the end of June. The business had hoped to move smoothly into its new location in the Crossroads.
“We don’t want this thing to drag on until August,” Picerno said. “We have a $1 million investment. ”