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Lincoln strip clubs enter pleas, are fined for dozens of pandemic violations

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Two Lincoln strip clubs this week entered pleas to dozens of city misdemeanor charges collectively for violating the directed health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The Night Before Lounge on Wednesday pleaded no contest to 41 violations, and The Office Gentleman's Club pleaded no contest to nine.

Lancaster County Court Judge Joseph Dalton sentenced the businesses to pay $180 fines on each of the violations (together adding up to $9,000), in addition to court costs and fees that add another $100 or so per case (roughly $5,000 in all).

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In late May, the clubs also dropped a federal lawsuit they filed against the city in January over directed health measures then in place that mandated closing time at 11 p.m., saying the earlier closing time hurt their businesses, especially because their peak hours tend to be between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Lincoln attorney Carlos Monzón, who represented the clubs on both matters, said the owners found themselves in a quandary.

"A virus that only attacks patrons between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.? Lose valuable employees? Lose a business, a labor of years in effort and monies?" he said in an email Friday. "The city made its point — caprice. My clients made theirs: They had to do everything possible to save their business and employees."

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He said the city's capricious enforcement became his clients' "cost of doing business."

The city has not sought jail time in the cases, and the maximum fine possible is $500.

City Attorney Yohance Christie said the city, and the community as a whole, has an interest in moving forward.

"This has been unfortunate for everyone, including these businesses. But it's been unfortunate for a lot of other businesses who did comply with the law as well," he said.

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Christie said "hopefully we can work together as a community to get past this."

Next month, a group of 13 bars and lounges facing 143 city misdemeanor cases are set for bench trials for alleged violations of the city's mask mandates. Their attorney, Chris Ferdico, is alleging the city failed to comply with state statutes when enacting the DHMs, making them unenforceable. 

Their federal lawsuit over the DHMs is pending in U.S. District Court. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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