Tolland opts for compromise on adult business license application change

The town originally proposed amendments to its ordinance to limit appeal options, such that a business — the town has only one adult business, the Electric Blue Cafe on Merrow Road — should the town decide to suspend or revoke a license. The new proposal by city officials would allow such businesses to remain open during the early stages of any appeal to the city’s decision to revoke the license.

Currently, a city ordinance states that if the city’s development director and/or public safety director denies or suspends or revokes a business’s license, the business has 30 days to appeal the decision to the City Council and can file an appeal. Apply to the state Supreme Court, which will allow the case to remain open during the appeal.

The decision came under scrutiny after the city tried to shut down Electric Blue for 30 days in March while state police investigated reports of prostitution and sexual activity at the strip club. The club appealed the suspension to the state Supreme Court and was allowed to remain open. Tolland Town Manager Brian Foley decided not to fight Electric Blue’s application because of the resulting costs to the town.

Councilman Lou Luba said that under the City Council’s proposed amendments, a business could appeal the city’s decision and go to court to allow the business to stay open. However, if Tolland’s review applies, the business will remain closed until the court approves the petition.

“The proposal is not to remove the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court. That was always the right of inheritance,” Luba said during a public hearing at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We’re changing the automatic stay pending litigation.”

“Essentially, if a business’s license is suspended or revoked, it will be valid for the entire period from the notice until the City Council hearing takes place,” Foley said Wednesday. “Now, if the case files for a stay or dismissal, they can stay open until they have a board hearing, and if the board decides they’re going to stay open at the hearing, they can stay open, but the case will be closed until the hearing in court — if they go there.”

Luba said at a council meeting last month that the current stay in city code makes the ordinance invalid and leaves the city, its public safety director, city manager and others unable to act quickly. Luba said the city’s hands are tied when it can suspend or revoke a license.

During an Oct. 10 public hearing, an attorney representing Electric Blue told the City Council that the initial motion to modify the ordinance would violate due process because it does not provide the applicant with a hearing before the suspension.

“The current wording of rule 51-10 immediately revokes the license, but the filing of the stay puts it back in due process,” said Ian Butler, an attorney representing Denning Enterprises Inc., owner of Electric Blue. Require the Board to vacate that provision under due process as required by law.

In response to Butler’s comments, the council decided to extend the public hearing until Tuesday to give City Attorney Richard Conti time to review the proposed changes, but Foley asked the council to extend the public hearing again because Conti had not yet conducted an investigation. .

With the next City Council meeting not scheduled until after the municipal elections in November, the decision on the proposed changes will now be in the hands of the next City Council.

Luba said he hopes the new City Council will continue with the proposed change in what he calls a “happy environment.”

“We’re taking the extra step to ensure they can’t claim they were denied due process,” Luba said.

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