Chorus Line

Davenport taxpayers are getting hit with the biggest strip club cover charge ever: $270,000.

Still, it’s a bargain.

City Administrator Craig Malin’s well-intentioned but botched crackdown on the Chorus Line, 4128 N. Brady, put the city in a position where state and federal courts agreed: This ham-handed enforcement left the city liable for the strip club’s lost business and legal fees.

Strip club owner Nadeem Mazhar, of Bettendorf, was seeking $561,550, but agreed to about half that last week. The lump sum puts him back in a horribly exploitive business that, nonetheless, is 100 percent legal in Iowa.

We won’t dispute the merits of First Amendment protections that enable nude dancing, along with a free press. But we will note that strip clubs do little to encourage neighboring development. Nor do they engender pride in the families of patrons or performers.

Davenport police responded to a shooting outside the club March 30. A stabbing was reported Nov. 3. The club manager was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for the 2011 sexual assault of a drunken performer who had passed out.

So we understand why Malin attempted to block the reopening of this strip club after it closed in 2008. An adult boutique had opened in its place. So when the Mazhar attempted to reopen, Malin seized on city code that prevents adult business operating so closely together. The boutique, however, had been licensed by the city as a retail boutique, not adult business. Malin personally inspected the boutique merchandise and came to a different conclusion.

But judge after judge agreed: City records didn’t classify the boutique as an adult business, so the city’s restriction on adult businesses didn’t apply. Worse, judge after judge determined Malin exceeded his authority by investigating, then serving in his role as hearing administrator for adult business zoning disputes.

"The record is quite clear from both the transcript and the written decision that Defendant Craig Malin assumed a personal commitment to a particular result, that is, the denial of the license," the appellate court wrote. "This combination of all three functions of investigation, advocacy and adjudication, has the appearance of fundamental unfairness in this administrative hearing, thus vitiating its legal effect."

Strip club owner Mazhar is taking that unfairness all the way to the bank. Now he operates on North Brady, doing little to revitalize a corridor that still has too many vacant storefronts.

And taxpayers pay the price for a zealous city administrator who didn’t know when to quit.