Cheetahs had their permit revoked in December of last year.
  • Cheetahs had their permit revoked in December of last year.
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Suzanne Coe, president of the Kearny Mesa strip joint known as Cheetahs, claims the San Diego Police Department's vice unit revoked the club's entertainment permit in retaliation against her and her club after her manager and more than a dozen dancers went to the media last March with complaints that officers conducted an illegal raid and forced them to pose for photos against their wishes.

The club has been allowed to remain open until a judge hears the case.

On March 6, 2014, ten police officers entered the club and ordered the dancers to private dressing rooms. Once there, the women were forced to get in line and pose for photos.

In the days that followed, some of the women and the club's manager, Rich Buonantony, gave to the media firsthand accounts of the raid and the impromptu and invasive photo session. In interviews, they said the officers crossed the line of enforcement and violated their constitutional rights. They repeated those allegations in a claim they filed with the city two weeks later, which was later denied. On April 7 of last year, the club's management filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court.

The police department, according to the March 23, 2015, lawsuit, punished the dancers and establishment for airing their grievances to the media.

Two days after the federal lawsuit was filed, officers from the vice unit notified Cheetahs that they had violated San Diego's Municipal Code governing nude entertainment clubs. And then came more visits from undercover officers.

"On April 24, 2014, the day after the meeting, and on May 2, 2014, and May 20, 2014, San Diego police officers conducted undercover operations at Cheetahs," reads the lawsuit. "During these operations, undercover officers would pay the entertainers for 'lap dances.' The undercover officers then filed internal reports alleging the entertainers had violated regulatory provisions of the San Diego Municipal Code."

In June, the police department notified Cheetahs that it was seeking to revoke their permit due to 12 alleged violations, including illegal touching during lap dances and dancers violating the six-feet rule.

According to the lawsuit, police department staff had been told that the force was trying to close Cheetahs for good.

"In July of 2014, unknown employees of the SDPD, who worked at the Vice Unit permit desk processing entertainer permit applications and taking photographs of the applicants, told one permit applicant that the applicant should not work at Cheetahs because they were 'trying to shut them down.'"

The harassment continued for several months, with officers showing up at the strip club asking for business documents and other items as part of their investigation.

On December 22, a hearing officer sided with the police and ordered to revoke their permit.

The city must now defend allegations that the vice unit conducted an illegal raid and improperly detained the workers at Cheetahs in federal court while defending their decision to revoke the club's permits in Superior Court.

(corrected 3/29, 11:50 a.m.)

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shirleyberan March 26, 2015 @ 5:56 p.m.

I'm betting there were valid reasons Cheetahs had their license revoked. Seems the police department was aware of some kind of illegal activity before the media started filming. San Diego allows a lot of those clubs unless some form of Cheating is involved,


swell March 26, 2015 @ 7:04 p.m.

All we have here is Cheetahs' viewpoint. The City/police haven't revealed their reasons or discoveries. It's hard to take a side with so little information.


Visduh March 27, 2015 @ 9:25 a.m.

The SDPD has a long history of lashing out at anyone involved in embarrassment to the department. This is totally consistent with many previous situations, and was almost predictable. I have little sympathy with nude clubs, but I have less sympathy with the SD cops when they get into messes like this one.


dwbat March 27, 2015 @ 10:15 a.m.

The SDPD vice reportedly heard an old song being played while there one night: "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now." They were shocked at the double entendre, and tried to find out what part of the human body the "Now" referred to! They told Ms. Coe that the song was indecent, and should not be played anymore. ;-)


dwbat March 27, 2015 @ 4:05 p.m.

I was sure HOPING nobody would believe it!


Javajoe25 March 27, 2015 @ 10:02 p.m.

This is just another example of the SDPD behaving like the thugs they are. There was absolutely no reason for the cops to go to Cheetahs that first time. The girls all have their photos on file, required by law when they get their license to dance and there was no legitimate reason for additional "private" photos to be taken. These cops were just feeling their jollies and wanted to have some fun. They know damn well the girls get paid very little and count on their tips for their income and those tips are directly related to how big a smile they can put on the faces of the men who request a private lap dance. And the thugs know that and they know they can go to any girlie club they want any time and they will be able to "collect evidence" of violations of the lap dance and the 6-ft rule. They just like pushing people around because they are after all, the SDPD, and they don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

If anyone thinks certain moral rules are being violated by these clubs, they should be much more offended by the ethical rules being violated by police who exploit and abuse these women who dance for a living. The cops need to behave more like the public servants they are, and more importantly, more like human beings; civilized human beings and not a bunch of bullies and thugs. This is just another example of the disgraceful behavior of the San Diego police.


Visduh March 28, 2015 @ 7:58 a.m.

Gee, Joe, why don't you tell us how you REALLY feel?


Javajoe25 March 28, 2015 @ 10:01 a.m.

I just did, Vis. You know I can't stand the cops behaving like jackbooted thugs. I hope they get creamed in this lawsuit.


dwbat March 30, 2015 @ 12:57 p.m.

They wanted to open a Cheetahs in Las Vegas, but the NV gaming commission turned them down. They do not like cheetahs in their city, esp. the card-counting kind! ;-)


shirleyberan March 30, 2015 @ 4:12 p.m.

Does Michael Galardi still own this club? Wasn't he already thrown out of Las Vegas and landed here, did some jail time for the city council bribes to change the 6 foot law, right dbwat? There was rumor of a fictitious new Cheater owner but maybe it's still him. That's some background to this story however many years ago, practically legend and wasn't mentioned. Now you can correct me dbat, if this is a different Cheetahs


dwbat March 30, 2015 @ 6:36 p.m.

My comment about "cheetahs" (cheaters) was SATIRE. You seem to miss that often. It was HUMOR, just like the "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" comment.


shirleyberan March 30, 2015 @ 7:01 p.m.

dwbat - I thought you were here for the 2005 "strippergate". Many players involved.


dwbat March 30, 2015 @ 7:13 p.m.

I did not live in SD at that time; I've been here since December 2009. Also, once again, my comment was not serious. Do you ever watch "The Colbert Report" (satirical news)? I didn't miss your point, as I wasn't interested in your point. I was making my own satirical statement about cheaters.


shirleyberan March 30, 2015 @ 7:16 p.m.

Operation G-Sting by the FBI in Nevada with Galardi Senior, among others, bribing officials there (2003).


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