Billy Dean moves to highest court to appeal denial on Wantagh strip club

Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe in North Bellmore on

Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe in North Bellmore on May 23, 2012. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Strip club owner Billy Dean has turned to the highest court in the state to appeal a court ruling that prevented him from opening a new club in Wantagh, but the Town of Hempstead is urging the court to deny the request.

A New York State Appellate Division panel on Feb. 13 affirmed the denial by the town's Board of Appeals of a cabaret permit to Dean, who sought to open the Mile High Club with what he described as a "Las Vegas" style feel on Sunrise Highway. The license for the Wantagh venue would have allowed live music, dancing and entertainment, but prohibited topless or nude entertainment.

"The decision was properly affirmed by the Appellate Division for the BZA rationally determined, based on substantial evidence, that the appellant had not acted in good faith, had misled the board, and failed in its burden of proof," according to the town's opposition papers submitted last week. BZA refers to the Board of Appeals, which was formerly called the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Dean's attorney, William Cohn of Uniondale, said Tuesday that he appealed the decision to the New York State Court of Appeals late last month. He argued that the board's actions improperly encroached on and deprived Dean's rights of freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. But the town contended that the First Amendment argument was not raised before the Board of Appeals or the previous courts prior to the Court of Appeals.

"It is now the call for the appeals court at this point," said Cohn, adding it could take a couple of months for the court to make a decision.

Dean and partner Rori Gordon in October 2011 unsuccessfully sued the town appeals board and its seven members in State Supreme Court for denying the cabaret license for the Wantagh property. The denial reversed the board's approval of Dean's application more than a year earlier. Dozens of residents opposed the opening of the club because of its proximity to a residential neighborhood.

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"This is the wrong location, immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood, for a cabaret," Town Supervisor Kate Murray said in a statement. "We are pleased that both the Supreme Court and the Appellate Division upheld the town's position. We applaud the court for doing the right thing for neighbors and for rendering the right decision on the merits of the case."

A State Supreme Court justice upheld the appeals board decision in May 2012. Dean then appealed to the appellate division.

Dean owns Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe in North Bellmore, which he bills as "Long Island's Number 1 Strip Club." The town appeals board has yet to make a decision on a petition by Dean for a cabaret permit renewal for the North Bellmore location; the permit expired March 28, 2012.

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