Activist Strategies: Indiana Feminists Block “Girls Gone Wild”; Berlin Resident Fights Strip Club Liquor License with Remonstrance Petition

Amanda Marcotte reports on the feminist blog Pandagon how activists in Bloomington, IN successfully pressured a local bar to cancel a taping of the amateur-porn phenomenon “Girls Gone Wild”. This video series produced by Joe Francis follows a camera crew to party spots in various cities as they persuade attractive, usually drunk young women to strip and perform softcore sex acts for the camera.

The show has faced criminal and civil legal penalties for violence against women, obtaining invalid consent forms from intoxicated persons, and failing to document the use of possibly underage performers (a federal crime). Check out Amanda’s post for strategies you can use if GGW invades your town. Liz Ladd, the Bloomington resident who spearheaded the campaign, has launched a MySpace page [explicit language] documenting her efforts.

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Pandagon here relates the specific technique used to encourage greater responsibility from a club owner:

A week or so ago, I noticed that Girls Gone Wild, the problems I have with which I’m sure you can surmise, was coming to my town. I didn’t suppose that I could shut the event down altogether, but I thought I could at least warn some people that the folks they’d be taking off their clothes for were rapists. So I started raising awareness in my own little way: started a facebook page and a myspace group, handed out small flyers letting people know about the rape allegations, labor issues of making porn this way, and such. Lo and behold, there were other forces at work, and better activists than me succeeded in getting the whole shebang CANCELED by, in a genius move, threatening to acquire the video taped the night of the event and show it at the board meeting at which the bar’s liquor license would be up for renewal [see sample petition to club owner]. No manager wants to go to the trouble of making sure that everything stays legal that night, and he summarily did the “right thing” and canceled the event. ANYONE can do this in any town, no? I’ve switched over my facebook and myspace pages to telling people about this strategy.

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In other news, Berlin, CT newspaper The Berlin Citizen on January 25 named resident Kurt Kemmling their “Citizen of the Year” for his fight to stop the Infra Red Café, a topless bar, from getting back their liquor license.

The Citizen of the Year award is given to a resident who is an outstanding example of what it means to stand up to our job as a citizen. This person demonstrates how to participate in community life. It is awarded to someone who worked to affect the course of events because it was the right thing to do….

Kemmling, 48, was born and raised in New Britain. He moved to Berlin in 1990. Disabled, Kemmling said, “some days I can’t get out of bed. On those days when I can, I try to do something positive.

“I’m very honored. I did this to better the community. The next generation has to grow up in this town… I did it for the town.

“We go through our daily lives and we’re busy–but if you take a moment out of your life, if you see a wrong, just do something about it instead of complaining about it.

“If a person like me can accomplish this, anyone can and that would make me the happiest person in the world.”

Kemmling receives the award for his initiative and determination in using a little known legal recourse to try and keep a business that was troublesome to his neighborhood from obtaining a renewal of its liquor license.

The Infra Red Café on New Britain Avenue featured topless dancers and had been the site of numerous incidents of criminal activity, such as underage dancers, fights that included weapons, noise problems and numerous infractions of a lesser nature.

This article by Olivia L. Lawrence from the paper’s January 20 edition gives more details on the legal battle:

A little known process, known as a remonstrance, has triggered the state to further scrutinize the Infra Red Café liquor license at a hearing Feb. 16.

A petition for a remonstrance, filed on behalf of 19 residents who live near the 237 New Britain Road topless bar, will bring formal complaints about the establishment to the liquor commission.

Kurt Kemmling, of 226 New Britain Road, spearheaded the petition and acts in the capacity of “agent” (the designation of the person who submits the petition and is the contact person on the matter.)

He said the remonstrance is a tool more citizens need to know about when it comes to problems with bars in their neighborhood. Kemmling also would like to see more Berlin residents get involved with the upcoming hearing on the Infra Red.

The petition describes the bar as “a nuisance to the community and (it has been) the scene of numerous shooting, fights, disturbances since they have been in business…”

According to the Department of Consumer Protection, a remonstrance is the opportunity for the general public to voice its formal objection to either a new liquor permit application or the renewal of an existing liquor permit within its town…

Kemmling said, at this time, he does not know how many of those who signed the petition, besides himself, will be at the hearing at the Department of Consumer Protection, Liquor Control Division, in Hartford. He said he is confident that many others in the neighborhood are in support of his effort as an earlier petition, delivered to the club management and not to officials, was signed by close to 250 residents…

Kemmling said he tried numerous times to open a dialogue with staff and management at the club but they refused to respond.

“We don’t think they want to be neighborly, they’re disruptive, and without their willingness to speak to us, they are showing a lack of concern for their neighbors,” he said. “It’s an eyesore in the community and dangerous.”

In May 2005, the Infra Red was the scene of a fight that left one man unconscious. In April the manger, Kenneth Pina, was arrested after police determined that two young women, a 19-year-old and a 18-year-old, were dancing at the club. The café features exotic dancers. In 2004, the club ran into licensing delays, as an adult entertainment business, when it failed to provide a list of all employees to the police department as is required. Police run background checks on employees as part of the application process…

The DCP can revoke or refuse a liquor permit for reasonable cause on a number of counts, including that the place is a lewd or disorderly establishment.

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