Wacko's suing the city of Jacksonville, alleges that DART raids censor bikini bars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Wacko's Gentlemen's Club is suing the city of Jacksonville and fire marshal Kevin Jones in connection to a March 2017 raid on the business.

In the suit, filed on Thursday, Wacko's alleges that the city "has resorted to the use of 'DART (Drug Abatement Response Team) raids' to directly censor and prohibit" bikini bars such as Wacko's.

The suit states that performers are covered and the dances are not meant to be obscene.

"Plaintiff maintains that the human body is a thing of beauty which, when combined with music and rhythmic motion in the form of dance, conveys an important message of eroticism. ... This expressive activity is performed before a consensual audience, all over the age of 18 years, desirous of receiving and enjoying the message conveyed by the entertainer of normal human sexual interest and sensual subtleties."

According to the City of Jacksonville's website, DART "was established in January 1996 to combat illegal drugs in Jacksonville by focusing on the property where drug activity flourishes. Working with landlords/property owners, the team develops strategies and marshals resources to reduce drug activity."

However, in its suit, Wacko's alleges that in practice, "DART raids have been used as a mere pretext and excuse to close Plaintiff's bikini bar, and as well as other disfavored businesses, without notice or an opportunity to be heard."

The suit states that leading up to the DART raid on March 30, 2017, the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco (DABT) obtained a search warrant to seek evidence of one or more crimes, not directing a search for violations of the fire code.

During DABT investigation, several performers were arrested on drug and prostitution charges, "but no management personnel were arrested and no criminal charges were brought against the Wacko's business," the suit said.

After DABT officers left, Jones and city agents, employees and officers entered as part of a DART raid and Jones then ordered Wacko's to close for alleged violations of the fire code. Wacko's alleges in the suit that Jones "'piggybacked' onto the DABT criminal warrant."

The suit said the closure order was based on "obstruction of a hallway needed for egress by several broken chairs; and a fire wall which Jones believed was not up to code."

Wacko's said in the suit the closure caused "lost profits, the cost of permitting, construction and professional fees required to reopen, and damage its reputation and good will."

Wacko's is asking for judgment against the city for damages, court costs and other relief the court may deem just.