Deja Vu adult cabaret shut down in Lakewood, goes to court to try to reopen

An adult cabaret that was shut down last month in Lakewood has gone to court in an attempt to reopen.

Deja Vu Tacoma filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court, asking a judge to find that Lakewood’s adult cabaret licensing provisions are unconstitutional and to keep the city from enforcing them.

“Defendant is seeking permanent closure of the business without considering whether intermediate sanctions would be sufficient to address problems with the business and without making a determination that there is no other way to cause cessation of illegal activity,” the lawsuit says. “Defendant acting under color of municipal law has denied and continues to deny rights guaranteed to the Plaintiff by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

The business at 8920 South Tacoma Way closed last month after the city realized it had been operating without an adult cabaret license for about two years.

Deja Vu reapplied for a license, which was denied Monday, according to an order signed by the city manager.

The notice accuses the business of being a public nuisance. It alleges that the business failed to prevent unlawful activity, such as drug possession and sales and prostitution.

And it accuses Deja Vu of various violations of the city code regarding adult cabarets, such as:

“Improper clothing when mingling with members of the public.”

“Fondling or erotically touching any member of the public.”

“Performing actual or simulated acts of sexual conduct ... .”

“Violating the city’s distance separation of no less than four feet from any member of the public.”

Failing to use a tip box.

The manager was not always monitoring the entertainers, and the VIP area was not visible by the manager.

The business was too dimly lit.

There wasn’t a proper railing between the entertainer area and customer area.

There wasn’t a two-foot by two-foot sign outlining the city’s conduct standards for adult cabarets.

The posted price list wasn’t comprehensive of the services being provided.

Deja Vu’s lawsuit, filed Oct. 8 in Pierce County Superior Court, gives this account:

“Up until the present, Plaintiff has never had its business license suspended, revoked or denied,” the complaint says.

Deja Vu applied for an adult cabaret license in 1992 and got one, then renewed that license annually.

“In late 2018 and early 2019, Lakewood police officers engaged in a series of undercover sting operations at the business,” the complaint says. “The undercover sting operations resulted in criminal misdemeanor charges being filed against several entertainers and a manager.”

The city also realized that the business hadn’t renewed its adult cabaret license for two years.

“This lapse was due to an error on part of Plaintiff’s employees who either failed to receive or overlooked notice that the renewal application was due,” the complaint says.

City spokeswoman Brynn Grimley said: “They’ve been operating illegally since December of 2017. ... It’s my understanding that we did send the notification letting them know that it was going to expire.”

Facing a $500-per-day-fine if it kept operating without the license, the business closed last month as it reapplied for one.

“As a result, over 75 entertainers and 15 employees have been displaced,” the complaint says. “Some of those displaced have found employment elsewhere, but many have not. Many of the displaced individuals are the sole support of themselves and their families.”

The business has asked the court for unspecified monetary damages as well as a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to keep the city from: “forcing Plaintiff’s business to remain closed pending exhaustion of administrative and judicial remedies.”

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court.

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.