After winning $850,000 in lawsuits against cities that wouldn't allow him to open nudie dance joints, Bob Davis became the most successful strip club entrepreneur to have never successfully operated a strip club. That business model started to collapse in March, however, after he sued Seattle for blocking his latest club effort: He had sought more than a million, but won just a dollar. Now, he has won another whole dollar, and the model seems kaput.
Even the judge had to call the $2 case "a hollow victory."
A protege of strip-club pioneers Frank Colacurcio and Roger Forbes, Davis discovered the riches of threatening to open a nudie business when first Seattle, then Bothell, turned down his proposed nudie ventures in the last decade. Arguing their actions were unconstitutional, he collected $500,000 from Seattle and $350,000 from Bothell in legal victories.
He returned to federal court in 2009 seeking to collect $1.6 million after Seattle refused to issue him a permit to open a club at Cyndy's House of Pancakes in north Seattle. The plan was stalled by neighbors and city officials invoking an adult cabaret requirement that such clubs not be close to schools, child-care centers and public parks. (Davis later briefly ran Jiggles nudie club in the U District but that was closed down in violation of the same ordinance).
U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik said Davis had a case, though not much of one. The city stopped him from launching the club, true; then again, how could he be harmed if he hadn't opened for business? In March, Lasnik gave him what he thought Davis's argument was worth: $1.
That still meant Davis won, however, so he moved to collect his attorney fees, $138,000. There was also another legal issue in which Davis could reap some money: whether or not he had legal standing to challenge city law.
Judge Lasnik took that on in a separate review and in a little-noticed ruling two months ago, gave Davis's company, ATL, what he thought that argument was worth, too. "Accordingly," the judge wrote, "the Court awards Plaintiff an additional $1 in nominal damages for its success on that issue."
That's a total of $2 for a court battle that was supposed to produce more than a million-and-a-half dollars. Still, there were those attorney fees he was seeking from city taxpayers.
So Lasnik also issued a complicated, 11-page formula on what Davis' attorney deserved. In a nutshell, it concluded that the dollar-and-hour claims were not justified by the evidence.
The judge decided Davis was owed just $42,974.17 in attorney's fees. But one more thing.
Lasnik revealed Davis had turned down a $100,000 settlement offer from the city in February, apparently in the belief he could earn more by going to trial.
In hindsight, that was a costly move. And now it would cost him more.
Davis had sought some attorney fees for work done after he'd rejected the city's offer. By law, those post-settlement fees weren't chargeable to taxpayers, said Lasnik, lopping off another $4,000.
Davis's bottom line earnings after three years of litigation: $39,500 in legal and other fees, two bucks in damages. That's roughly $1.56 million less then he sought, and $60,00 less than he could have earned with a settlement.
Reviewing the case, Lasnik noted that of Davis's five predominate claims against the city, the court denied all but two. "And of [the] two wins, one changed nothing."
Even though the court had agreed that City Hall should have accepted Davis's permit application for a strip club in 2009, Lasnik added, that "victory was a hollow one."
Let the record also show the winner is appealing it.