Businessman fights to re-open strip club
POSTED: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 6:42pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 6:43pm
ASCENSION PARISH, La (NBC33) — A strip club in Prairieville is still not open Tuesday, but the man who has been running it is now fighting the people who shut him down.
Suthern Kumfort Gentleman’s Club on Airline Highway in Prairieville shut down by the parish back on May 5th, one day after Willis Tanner was beaten to death in the parking lot.
Steve Duke claims to be the owner of the strip club. In a hearing today, his attorney, Joe Long, says the decision to deny Duke his business permit was wrong. He says the parish took Duke’s license without the proper grounds.
The Ascension Parish Council Chairman, Patrick Bell, has the final say in approving or denying an application for a business license. He said in the hearing today that that he decided to shut down the gentleman’s club after the murder. “I opted to wait it out to see what was going to happen,” explained Bell.
In Ascension Parish, an application for a sexually-oriented business has to go through several phases. It initially starts in the Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority. Long says Duke filed to renew the strip club’s permit in February.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office is required to a do a background check on all individuals applying for a permit. Duke’s background check cleared at the beginning of March. From there, it was sent back to the Sales and Use Tax Authority. Administrator Mark West said during the hearing that he had questions about the ownership of the club, so he held off on sending it to the council to be approved.
Long says West told a different story during his deposition last week. He says West admitted to misplacing the application for two months. It finally went to Chairman Bell’s desk at the beginning of May, when he decided to deny the permit. Long says it is the first time that a permit has been denied after a background check was already cleared.
Bell believes he did the right thing. Right after he denied the permit, an investigation into the gentleman’s club turned up documents showing that another man may be the owner. Investigators say technically Charles Puckett is the owner. They say he raped two minors back in 1992, and by law, he cannot own a strip club.
Both Duke and Puckett were arrested for filing false public records.
Officials say Steve Duke is not legally the owner because he never applied for a new license after taking over operations from Puckett. Long insists that there’s no documentation to prove that Puckett owned the club to begin with.
Ascension Parish attorney, Toni Falterman, says she has more than a dozen witnesses to question. She expects the hearing to continue into tomorrow.