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2 topless clubs won't close despite losing liquor licenses

Two local topless bars that lost their liquor licenses this week can no longer serve alcohol -- but their exotic dancers now may be able to show more skin than before.

Both 24KT Gold on Route 5 in Hamburg and Rick's Tally-Ho on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga appear to be staying open for business, albeit with altered hours.

Richard A. Snowden, owner of Rick's Tally-Ho, said he will try to get the liquor license restored. But Snowden also said if he can't serve alcohol, he may offer all-nude dancing in the nightclub.

"That would be a distinct possibility," he said.

State law prohibits full nudity if alcohol is served but is less restrictive when it comes to so-called "juice bars" that offer exotic dancing.

Rick's Tally-Ho would not be prohibited from offering all-nude dancing, as long as the establishment registered with the Town of Cheektowaga, according to the town's current codes.

"There's nothing in there that says they can't have fully nude dancing," said Thomas J. Adamczak, code enforcement supervisor.

Snowden operated a profitable cabaret club in Las Vegas without serving alcohol, but he said he would prefer to provide alcoholic beverages for Rick's Tally-Ho customers.

"Here, people expect to go out and have a cocktail and enjoy the entertainment," he said. Snowden described the SLA's decision during an emergency session on Thursday as "tragic."

The license suspensions followed a federal raid on the two clubs on March 2. The FBI arrested 27 people, including dancers and the club managers, on charges related to prostitution and drugs.

Snowden maintains that he knew nothing about the alleged crimes in his nightclub, despite testimony from an SLA witness suggesting otherwise.

"I will fight vigorously to clear my name," Snowden said. "You've got indicted people looking to cover their own behinds."

Daytime hours at Rick's Tally-Ho have been curtailed until several new exotic dancers can be hired, but the nightclub continues to be open from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., said Snowden.

The owners of 24KT Gold, Mark and Christine Whipple, could not be reached to comment. A sign at the club said it would be open at 6 p.m. on Saturday and invited patrons "18 & Older." The "18 & Older" sign later was removed, however, and the business remained closed Saturday night.

Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters said the town's code does not appear to address the issue of full nudity inside the club.

"There are state regulations out there as well," said Walters. "We were kind of surprised that the pulling of the liquor license opened the doors to additional possibilities for the nightclub."

The charges of drugs and prostitution were hardly surprising, said Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, a Manhattan-based group that monitors obscenity crimes nationwide.

"Prostitution and drug problems pop up all over the country with strip joints," said Peters, who questioned why municipalities weren't moving to shut down the bars as public nuisances.

"Guys don't go there for the artistic appreciation," he said. "They're going to become sexually aroused. . . . A significant percentage of them are going to want to have sex."

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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