Updated Fri, Dec 27, 2013 4:18 pm
The city of Athens wants to be able to argue during an upcoming trial that a businessman might not actually want to operate a strip club in Athens as he has professed, according to a document the city filed in federal court on Monday.
The Messenger reported earlier this month that Christopher Stotts — whose company Three Wide Entertainment has repeatedly been denied a city use permit to open an adult entertainment business on Stimson Avenue — is asking a federal judge to prohibit the city from arguing a motive for seeking the permit.
Stotts' lawsuit claims that the city has violated the constitutional rights of Stotts and of Demetrios Prokos, who owns the Stimson Avenue building where the club would be located and who also would receive part of the profits. Prokos also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The case is set to go to trial Jan. 13.
On Monday, the city filed a response to Stotts' attempt to block the city from arguing a motive for his seeking the permit.
The city is anticipating that Stotts and Prokos will argue that their motive in wanting to open as strip club is to make money, and that the city's actions have cost them profit.
"But also relevant is a suggestion from the defendants that Prokos and Stotts filed (permit) applications because they believed the applications would not be granted and they might thus have a right to sue the city for damages," the city asserts in Monday's filing.
"Also relevant is a defense suggestion that Prokos and Stotts had absolutely no experience operating adult entertainment venues and their motivation may have been to obtain a permit to make the property more marketable, but not to actually operate the establishment themselves," the city continues.
In asking the court to block the city from arguing a motive for seeking the use permit, Stotts and Prokos assert that the city might be seeking to "inflame" and prejudice the jury.
Attorney Louis Sirkin, who represents the plaintiffs, told The Messenger earlier this month that he wants to prevent the city from trying to argue that the permit for an adult entertainment business is being sought out of revenge or in retaliation. Sirkin said it is a business venture.
In the past, Prokos had tried unsuccessfully to get permission to use the building for different purposes, including as apartments.
The city's response on Monday does not indicate it intends to argue a retaliation motive.
"Plaintiffs' motion relies on nothing but rank speculation both as to what defendants will argue at trial and as to how the jury will react to any such arguments," the city asserts. "...This is a strip club case, and the jury is required to evaluate whether these plaintiffs actually desired to operate an adult entertainment business and whether they could do so profitably."
The city, meanwhile, had filed a motion asking the court to reconsider and revise an earlier summary judgment ruling. On Monday, the plaintiffs asked the court to deny that request.