An adult-oriented company on the northeast side of Terre Haute has been open for almost a month after a federal judge ordered an injunction in November preventing enforcement of a zoning decision in the city.
The deal – the Play Pen, 3295 Fruitridge Ave. – but does not offer alcohol.
Tribune-Star / Howard GreningerNow open: The Play Pen is open to adult businesses on Fruitridge Avenue following a November preliminary ruling in federal court against Terre Haute’s zoning ordinance.
The Vigo County Alcoholic Beverage Commission denied a three-way liquor license in December, citing inconsistencies with the company’s application.
“It was filed under a different company name,” said Sgt. Brad Lutes, an excise officer who serves on the Vigo County panel.
Denise Wilhoit of Charleston, Illinois, and Joseph Downing of Terre Haute first applied for alcoholic beverages approval in 2019 and are listed as majority owners of Ruth + Bick Inc.
At that point, an application was denied because the company had not yet received approval from the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals.
In December, Wilhoit and Downing returned to the Vigo County Zoning Board as founders of Fruitridge Inc.
That board of directors also declined that permission as members appeared unsatisfied that the motion was consistent on property interests, including those of Mike Bickers, who owns the property for Play Pen, said board member Jeff Lind.
Bickers, who filed the federal lawsuit against the city over the zoning decision, also owns property where the adult entertainment company, Club Koyote, is located in West Terre Haute.
According to Lauten, there are other exotic dance halls that operate without a license for alcoholic beverages.
“There’s one in Evansville [The Pony] that has no alcohol, ”said Lutes, who has been in the business for many years.
The Play Pen opened on the week of January 7th and stays open until late on Fridays and Saturdays.
A telephone message asking for a comment was left on Monday with Bicker’s attorney, Mark C. Webb, of Voyles Vaiana Lukemeyer Baldwin & Webb’s Indianapolis law firm.
In a November 24 ruling, Federal Judge James R. Sweeney II ruled in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana that Terre Haute’s Ordinance on Adult Venues “the [Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals’] full discretion in granting or denying permits to adult-oriented businesses ”, ordering an injunction preventing enforcement of the city’s zoning ordinance for adult venues.
The last entry in the court record for the Bickers case was in December when Bickers requested more time to file a petition for legal fees.
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Terre Haute attorney Eddie Felling said the Play Pen went through the occupancy certificate and other opening requirements.
“The [court] The contract basically said we couldn’t give them any hurdles in terms of the adult entertainment business, ”said Felling. “This restraining order blocked and essentially put aside all areas related to adult business,” Felling said.
Felling said the federal lawsuit will continue and changes could determine what ultimately happens to the business.
“But if you put the lawsuit aside and record that as a loss per se, when we change that [city] Code tomorrow you have a legal, non-compliant situation because you are already in business, ”Felling said of the Play Pen.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or [email protected] Follow @TribStarHoward on Twitter.