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Strip club developerpleads innocent



Published: Tue, September 11, 2007 @ 2:00 a.m.

Construction crews have torn out the building’s kitchen, the fire chief says.

By ANGIE SCHMITT

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AUSTINTOWN — The man who intends to open a strip club at Interstate 80 and state Route 46 pleaded innocent to charges brought forward by the local fire department.

Robert Neill is charged with seven counts of prohibition related to renovations he has undertaken at 5455 Clarkins Drive, the address he plans to open “Go Go Girls Cabaret.” Neill is leasing the building.

Neill has characterized the renovations as minor. But Fire Chief Andrew Frost said Monday that Neill had begun construction without a building permit.

A trial date is scheduled for Dec. 3 in Mahoning County Area Court here. He entered his plea Monday.

Neill began renovations at the 5,000-square-foot former restaurant in June. Two months later, fire department officials issued a stop-work order at the building.

Frost said his inspector found that Neill’s construction crews had torn out the kitchen and were constructing about 20 small “private” rooms.

The proposed use of the building does not concern his department, the fire chief said, but the current arrangement presents fire hazards.

“We don’t have any jurisdiction over whether we can put [a strip club] in there or not,” he said. “But they have to follow codes.”

Neill has accused Frost and other fire department officials of persecuting the business because of its intended purpose.

He filed a suit in federal court early this month, alleging the fire department was violating his First Amendment rights of expression by interfering with plans for the facility, which is to feature “live, exotic striptease dancing.”

Neill’s attorney Martin Yavorcik could not be reached to comment.


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