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Ohio Sup. Ct. Rules in Favor of Strip Club

The Supreme Court of Ohio held that a state law empowering the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to revoke a liquor license if an employee of the establishment is convicted of a felony applies only if the convicted person was an employee of the licensee on the date he or she was convicted. See WCI, Inc. v. Ohio Liquor Control Comm., Slip Opinion No. 2008-Ohio-88.

The case involved a 30-day suspension imposed by the commission against the liquor permit held by WCI, Inc., the operator of a Dayton-area “gentlemen’s club” known as Cheeks. The basis for that suspension was the felony conviction of Brooke Orshoski, a dancer at the club, who was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover officer on the premises of the club in February 2003. Following her arrest, Orshoski was fired by the owners and was no longer an employee when she was convicted on a felony drug trafficking count several months later.

WCI appealed the commission’s action, and the appeals court reversed the suspension order. In its decision, the 10th District agreed with arguments by WCI that the language of the applicable state liquor law, R.C. 4301.25(A), authorizes the commission to suspend a permit holder’s license for an employee’s felony conviction only if the offender was employed by the permit holder at the time of his or her conviction. (source)

Naturally there was a histrionic dissent:

“In contrast to the majority, I find nothing in the statute that requires that the conviction occur during the offending employee’s employment,” Justice Cupp wrote. “ … (R)eading the statute to require that the conviction and employment must be concurrent will allow a permit holder to easily evade its responsibility to maintain a permit premises free of illegal employee activity. A permit holder who knows of, or should know of, felonious employee conduct will now be able to allow the conduct to continue until the employee is caught. Then, the permit holder can insulate itself from any consequences simply by firing the employee before he or she is convicted.”

However, Ohio Administrative Code 4301:1-1-52(B) gives the liquor commission that power to suspend a permit or take other action against a permit holder for a wide range of employee misconduct on the permitted premises “regardless of whether the employee works for the permit holder when he or she is convicted.” (source)

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