PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island licensing board began hearing evidence to decide whether a strip club should be closed over allegations of drug dealing and prostitution.
The Providence Board of Licenses heard testimony from two detectives Wednesday who said that while undercover at the Wild Zebra Gentlemen’s Club in May dancers offered to have sex with them or perform sexual acts on them in exchange for money.
One of the detectives said he heard what sounded like people having sex in a cubicle in the back of the club and that he was sold drugs.
The board denied a request from the club’s attorney, Peter Petrarca, that the case be dismissed.
Petrarca told the board it was unfair that Wild Zebra only learned of the investigation in December so it wasn’t able to preserve any surveillance video from the alleged May incidents that could serve the defense.
The club denies the allegations of prostitution and drug dealing. Petrarca questioned whether the sounds that the detective heard were people actually having sex or performing “simulated sex acts” which is legal in a strip club, he said, adding that it’s also legal for two consenting adults to have sex indoors as long as no money changes hands.
He added that more evidence, including an explanation for condoms one of the detectives found in the trash, would be provided at the next hearing.
The hearing is set to continue later this month and is expected to tackle a separate accusation that in March, an alleged human trafficker from Connecticut hit a dancer with his car outside the club and then physically assaulted her.
The club is still open on the condition that a back room where most of the alleged illegal activity occurred remains closed.
Another Providence strip club, Foxy Lady, successfully appealed the licensing board’s attempts to permanently shut it down last year to the state Supreme Court and state government after three dancers were arrested on prostitution charges. Two of the dancers pleaded no contest; one was cleared by a judge.