Augustine Russo claims he may have to close his Park Street nightclub.

LEWISTON – Boondoggles owner Augustine Russo Jr. is taking the city to court over its recent decision to take away his license to provide music and dancing at his downtown nightclub.

Russo claims he has lost 85 percent of his business since April 20.

That is the night when the City Council voted to take away Russo’s entertainment license as punishment for allowing his female bartenders and waitresses to work without shirts.

Russo and his lawyer attempted to convince the councilors that he was not violating the city’s ordinance for two reasons.

First, they argued that the topless employees were not naked because they were wearing liquid latex – a rubbery substance that becomes hard after painted on skin – over the nipple and areola areas of their breasts.

Then, they attempted to convince the councilors that the city’s ordinance prohibits nude entertainment, not nudity in general. They argued that since the female employees were simply doing their jobs, mixing and serving drinks, they were not in violation.

The City Council didn’t buy Russo’s argument, voting 4-1 to yank his special amusement permit.

Now, Russo is taking his fight to Androscoggin County Superior Court.

He has filed an appeal of the city’s decision and he has also asked the court to reinstate his entertainment license while the matter is tied up in the legal process.

“My business is dependent upon dancing, either with a DJ or a live band,” he wrote in a court statement. “Without being able to provide entertainment, I anticipate that I will not be able to keep Boondoggles operating, and I will have to close the business.”

Russo has owned the Park Street club for five years. It was formerly called Augustine’s.

His problems with the city started April 13, when two undercover police officers went into the bar and witnessed two female employees without shirts.

Russo was issued a summons the following day for allegedly violating a clause in the city’s ordinance that bans adult-orientated live entertainment.

“The undisputed evidence was that the employees conducted regular activities of mixing and serving drinks to customers, but there was no dancing, performance or even any suggestive manner of serving drinks or receiving tips from customers,” Russo’s lawsuit states.

“Had the intent been to ban all nudity or nude activity, it would have been exceedingly simple and easy to do so.”

The lawsuit goes on to cite Portland’s ordinance, which specifically states it is illegal for anyone who operates a public place to allow people to be nude in the business.

“(Lewiston’s) regulations make no mention that nudity itself is prohibited,” the suit states.

An attorney for the city argued at the City Council meeting last month that the female employees may not have been dancing but they were certainly providing entertainment.

“If this isn’t exhibition, I don’t know what is,” David Bertoni told the council. “They were disrobed for a reason. They were disrobed for the purpose of entertainment.”

In requesting a temporary reinstatement of his entertainment license, Russo promised the court that he would not allow any person to dress in latex or liquid latex while the case is pending.

He claims that he cannot afford to continue to lose business throughout May since the summer months are usually much slower.

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