INTERVIEW: Club Velvet owner loses hearing on liquor license

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Downtown Richmond's infamous gentleman's club -- Club Velvet -- is shutting down.

This after the State ABC Board turned down an appeal of owner Sam Moore to retain his liquor license.

Moore said through his attorney that the state had sentenced him to the bar operators' version of the death penalty.

Our legal analyst Steve Benjamin joined us to discuss this development.

RYAN: The news that Sam Moore was shutting down the club came as a shock tom of us in the newsroom because he seemed so willing to fight City Hall on this issue. Did they make it too difficult few him to continue?

BENJAMIN: No, you know, Ryan, you can say -- and many people do say many things about Sam Moore, but no one has ever called him stupid. And I think Sam has made a very intelligent decision. As you note, the ABC Board has their formal hearing. They revoked his license to sell alcohol. The next step, and there is another step he could take, would be an appeal to the Circuit Court. But you see, if he were to do that, then the burden would be entirely on Sam. It would shift, no longer does the ABC people have to prove anything. It would shift over to Sam to prove that there was either a mistake in the law or that the evidence was not sufficient to warrant a receive revocation of his license.

RYAN: Let's talk about that evidence because his attorney has said repeatedly that ABC investigators basically entrapped Moore with their investigation. Is there any merit on that claim and if so, wouldn't he have had a case when he went to the Circuit Court?

BENJAMIN: Is there any merit to that claim? Hard to see the merit to that claim. I'm being as diplomatic as I can. No, there's on no merit to claim. Sure, that would have been something to argue in Circuit Court but the best proof was Sam himself. If he thought he had a strong case, I guarantee you he would go to Circuit Court but there's no reasonable likelihood of success to continue this fight, so why throw the money at that waste of time. Doesn't mean I think we've seen the end of Sam. He is one of our colorful characters and I am certain he is going to emerge again in another business enterprise. Who knows what the nature will be or whether it might be the same sort of thing, but Sam is someone who joys, quite frankly, poking his finger in our eye. He's done it repeatedly, done it when he's been concern to draw attention to himself. He's essentially drawn a bull's-eye on himself and I think he enjoys that.

RYAN: Right.

BENJAMIN: So we're going to see more of Sam. You're just not going to see him continuing the fight in the license.

RYAN: And the location.

BENJAMIN: At Velvet, yes.

RYAN: Quickly before we go, obviously Sam as separate issue, but does this put any other cleanup owners on notice that they have to keep everything in line? Because it seems that city officials were willing to go after them in this situation.

BENJAMIN: Well, it means if you anger a lot of public officials in law enforcement, then you're inviting trouble, but everyone already knows, you know, there are very strict rules associated with the ABC license and everyone knows you got to follow those rules. If you don't, they're going to enforce them and you stand to lose your license.

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