Business between the city and the Ice Lounge seemed to have ended in April when city council voted to revoke the bar’s business license. But with a May 21 decision at the Court of Chancery, the Ice Lounge again is free to open for business.

    Business between the city and the Ice Lounge seemed to have ended in April when city council voted to revoke the bar’s business license. But with a May 21 decision at the Court of Chancery, the Ice Lounge again is free to open for business.

    The preliminary injunction orders the business license restored on a provisional basis.

    It goes on to state the city claims the bar operates an adult entertainment establishment and that there must be a prompt hearing regarding that claim. If after the hearing the claim is found to be warranted, then injunction is dissolved and the city can revoke the license.

    Trouble for the Ice Lounge started when the city’s planning and inspections and police departments started investigating alleged city code violations at the bar in July 2007. That investigation included visits to the business by undercover officers.

    City code stipulates that non-opaque lingerie and thong underwear are “sexually oriented,” and therefore not allowed in establishments not zoned for adult entertainment, said city Director of Planning and Inspections Ann Marie Townshend in an April 16 Dover Post article.

    According to a police report from July 2007, an officer witnessed a female dancer in a bra and thong dancing on stage. The dancer removed her bra and continued to dance topless with star-shaped pasties covering her nipples. Another dancer proceeded to do the same thing, the report states.

    The report also states women performed lap dances in a private room for $20 and would take more money to dance longer.

    In response to the report, the city issued a provisional order on the business license July 31.

    Following this order, an evidentiary hearing was set for August, but never realized.

    “Short and simple, we didn’t think the city of Dover followed their own rules,” said Basil C. Kollias, lawyer representing the Ice Lounge from the Wilmington-based firm of Cooch & Taylor, P.A.

    But from the city’s viewpoint, Townshend said she and Kollias discussed the hearing last summer, and she remembers things differently. Whereas Townshend believed Kollias’ clients wanted to drop the hearing and comply with city license regulations, Kollias understood otherwise.

    “We essentially have two different recollections of the same event,” Townshend said.

    Neither Kollias nor Townshend followed up in writing regarding the hearing, so there is no hard evidence of whether the hearing was cancelled or abandoned.

    “There’s this hole in the factual record,” Townshend said.   

    According to Townshend, it was this hole that caused the Court of Chancery to ask the city to make sure the evidentiary hearing was held.

    Following the hearing that wasn’t realized, undercover police officers visited the Ice Lounge in March, and according to the police report found more instances where city code was violated. Dancers and the DJ were asking patrons if they would like to buy a private lap dance. In the private room, the report states, dancers were pulling their bras and thongs away from their bodies, exposing themselves.

    In response to both police reports, the Ice Lounge was given 10 minutes to present its case during an April 14 city council meeting. Kollias said he and his clients were not told they would have only that amount of time until the day before the meeting and that the time was insufficient.

    In an interview following the council session, co-owner Theresa Owens said the private room was only used for “air dances,” and while there was dancing in a bikini or opaque lingerie, no stripping or touching was allowed, according to the April 16 Post article.

    “We were never topless, and we were never nude,” she stated in the article. “We were bikinis and bikinis only.”

    Although city council voted unanimously to deny an appeal to reinstate the bar’s business license at that same April 14 meeting, that decision was invalidated with the Court of Chancery’s decision to send the issue back to the city for the evidentiary hearing the Ice Lounge never had.

    Responding to the court’s decision, council members met May 22 in executive session to discuss legal issues.

    After the meeting, a motion was made to proceed with the hearing on the stipulation an independent hearing officer be appointed to fulfill the duties of the license officer. The motion also said the attorney general and other pertinent state agencies would be notified of the evidence from the investigation thus far. It was carried unanimously with Councilwoman Beverly Williams absent.

    Townshend said the hearing’s timing would be determined shortly, when asked about a timeline. She also said depending on the findings, the matter could eventually go back to city council.

    When asked if the bar’s owners would sue for lost earnings, Kollias said they were considering their options but are satisfied for now.

    “They’re just happy to be reopened and they feel vindicated somewhat,” he said.

    He added that the owners probably would not change the way they operate the business, as they do not feel they have done anything wrong.

    Staff writer Jayne Gest contributed to this story.