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Strip clubs lose liquor licenses in raids' wake ; Tally Ho's is revoked; 24KT Gold's canceled

The State Liquor Authority on Wednesday revoked the liquor license of Rick's Tally Ho strip club in Cheektowaga and canceled the license of another strip club, 24KT Gold in Hamburg.

Both establishments were raided by police and federal agents March 2 after an investigation into drug trafficking and prostitution allegations involving dancers and patrons at the clubs.

Authorities told The Buffalo News that the license of Rick's Tally Ho, on Genesee Street, is revoked. The owner, Richard Snowden, has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit a $1,000 bond he posted when he got his license.

Snowden cannot apply for a new liquor license for two years, but others can buy or lease the property and apply for a new license, said Dennis C. Vacco, an attorney for the Cheektowaga establishment.

"We're happy with the outcome, which reflects that Mr. Snowden himself was not involved [in criminal activity] in any shape or form," Vacco said. "Mr. Snowden has decided he doesn't want to be in this business any longer."

24KT Gold, on Route 5, had its license canceled, and the owners will pay a $30,000 fine, authorities said, but the current owners can apply for a new liquor license as soon as they want to.

Mark and Christine Whipple, who own the Hamburg club, have denied any involvement or knowledge of illegal activities in their club. Their attorney, David Smith, was not immediately available to comment.

After an investigation by the FBI-led Safe Streets Task Force, 27 people, including seven dancers and a manager of the Cheektowaga club, and a disc jockey at the Hamburg club, were arrested on drug charges.

No prostitution charges were filed in the case, but prostitution activities involving dancers from both clubs were alleged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

The March arrests prompted the SLA to conduct its own investigation and to suspend both licenses, on an emergency basis, in late March.

In a sworn statement filed by prosecutors in the federal case, State Police Investigator Shales Caicedo alleged that both strip clubs have "private rooms" where male customers would go to have paid sex with strippers, sometimes exchanging drugs for sexual favors.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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