- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

Owners of a nightclub on the outskirts of Laurel have scrapped plans to open a strip club after fierce opposition from a neighboring church and community, and elected leaders, officials said.

The company that owns Club Amazon on the busy Route 1 corridor will, instead, operate a “family-friendly restaurant,” according to the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners, which regulates liquor licenses.

The move comes five months after the board approved that the club’s owners relocate their license from a strip club near Hyattsville to an unincorporated section of the county just outside of Laurel.

The board’s ruling was criticized by community leaders because Club Amazon’s new owners ran into regulatory problems after a 2003 triple homicide in the parking lot of a strip club they ran near Hyattsville called the Stardust Inn.

The decision also prompted legal challenges filed by the city of Laurel and the 80-member Touch of Love Bible Church. The church is located in the same shopping complex as Club Amazon.

“We’re cautiously optimistic and hopeful that nobody changes their minds,” said the Rev. Wale Maye, pastor of the nondenominational church. “Everybody is happy, but we’re waiting to see what happens over time. You never know what people’s intentions are.”

The club’s ownership, Hyo Myung Enterprises Co. Inc., could not be reached for comment. Officials and attorneys previously did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The company’s president is Robyn Kim, who is married to Tae Kim, a former assistant state’s attorney under Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson. Mr. Kim resigned from his position in 2003 after details surfaced about his ties to the adult entertainment industry.

In August, Mr. Kim told the county’s liquor commission that Hyo Myung Enterprises viewed the 2003 triple homicide outside the Stardust as “an absolute aberration” that shouldn’t affect the company’s plans to do business elsewhere.

Attorneys for the company had argued in legal filings that the shootings weren’t the fault of its owners.

Yesterday, Delegate Brian R. Moe, a Democrat who represents Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, credited the company’s decision against opening a strip club at its new location to cooperation between community leaders and elected officials.

“I think that the liquor board and Mr. Kim understood the community wasn’t going to have this,” Mr. Moe said.

Roxane Johnson, a founding member of Citizens Against Sexual Exploitation, which formed in opposition to plans to open the strip club, said yesterday the group will continue to press for new legislation to give the public more say in decisions about where adult entertainment businesses can open.

“We’re definitely glad they had a change of heart,” she said. “But we’re going to continue to push for legislation to tighten up the laws so no other community will have to go through this.”

Mr. Maye said the church, which planned to relocate if the strip club opened, is staying put, for now.

“We’ve got a situation worked out that if they do change their minds, the church can leave [its lease] without penalties,” he said. “We’re praying that they’re successful with the restaurant.”

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