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Exotic dancers permitted to return to Gilford lounge

GILFORD — Exotic dancers are coming back to town.

A little more than two years after they withdraw a local lounge owner's permit for exotic dancing, selectmen have awarded an entertainment permit allowing exotic dancers to the owners of the Lakes Region Café and Tavern, which was called the Kings Grant Inn, Cocomo's, and Mardi Gras North.

The selectmen, particularly board chair Kevin Hayes, have been against reinstating exotic dancers at the club, turning down owners Willard Drew and Tom Lyons several times. Hayes led the vote against allowing the exotic dancers return to the club last summer, saying at the time that several residents had asked him to vote against exotic dancing in town.

But last week, the town's attorney told officials that if the selectmen did not allow exotic dancing at the club, the town would be sued by Drew and Lyons, and would likely lose the case, Hayes said.

Drew took the town to court in the 1990s over the issue of exotic dancing, and the town lost its case against exotic dancing in federal court, said Town Administrator Scott Dunn.

"We were counseled that to avoid further litigation, we should give the full entertainment permit," Hayes said.

Drew and Lyons could not be reached for comment.

The club lost its license with the town and its state liquor license following the October 2011 drug dealing arrests of several dancers at the club. Lyons was not part-owner at the time, and Drew was not managing the club at the time and was cleared of any possible wrongdoing.

In the summer of 2012, Drew asked for a renewal of his entertainment license to include exotic dancing, but two Haves and Selectman John O'Brien voted against. Selectman Gus Benevides voted to allow it.

In October, the selectmen approved the entire entertainment license minus exotic dancers.

Last week, after Drew addressed the board, they granted the license with exotic dancing.

Hayes is still not happy about it.

"We were advised that we didn't have much choice," Hayes said.

"I still wish there was some other, better use for that property other than a club with exotic dancers."

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