JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) – Discrimination claims from the owners of a north Florida bikini bar that was shut down for fire-code violations failed to impress a federal judge.
The Silver Fox, a bar incorporated as Beaver Street Inc., joined H & J Land Investment Inc. in a lawsuit after Jacksonville fire marshal Kevin Jones raided the bikini bar in June 2013 and cited Silver Fox for violating the city’s fire code.
In addition to having the electricity shut off, Jones ordered business operations to cease and desist.
Silver Fox claimed that Jones targeted its bar only because of the nature of the business and that the forced closure is unconstitutional. It said Jones chose to shut down the bikini bar in an effort to reduce adult entertainment in Jacksonville.
Jones refused to lift the order and restore power despite Silver Fox’s claim that the property does not need a sprinkler system and poses no danger to public health or safety, according to the court order.
In its complaint, Silver Fox also accused Jones of violating its First Amendment and due-process rights, saying his actions were malicious.
The bar cited chapters 420 and 518 of the city of Jacksonville’s Code of Ordinances, but Jones countered that he was simply doing his job, acting in his official authority.
Jones said he saw the club was well over capacity, entered as part of an inspection, and saw several fire-code violations in the public areas of the club.
He further argued that “the law applicable to the actions of the Fire Marshal
is certainly not so ‘clearly established’ as to make it obvious to him that simply by doing his job and issuing citations to a club open to the general public, he would be violating the club’s constitutional rights.”
U.S. District Judge Marcia Howard agreed with Jones and dismissed the claims against him with prejudice.
“Ultimately, plaintiffs’ allegations fail to establish that a reasonable officer in Jones’s position would have known that his conduct was unconstitutional,” the ruling states.
Claims against the city remain pending.
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