Deputy Solicitor Andrew Culbreath played video clips in court of strippers giving lap dances to patrons and an undercover officer inside pricey rooms at Platinum Plus Greenville.
Some of the erotic dancers were topless or wearing only G-strings. Customers fondled them as the dancers straddled the men in the Champagne Room and Couch Room of the nightclub.
Some of that attire and activity may be allowed in other strip clubs, but Solicitor Walt Wilkins said a consent order stipulates simulated sex acts, the skimpiest of bottoms and exposed breasts are prohibited at Platinum Plus.
The videos and testimony from undercover officers served as the primary evidence at a civil hearing Tuesday morning at the Greenville County Courthouse. The Solicitor’s Office said those videos were evidence of contempt on the part of Elephant Inc., the parent company of Platinum Plus.
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Judge Charles Simmons will decide whether the club was in criminal or civil contempt of the consent order and levy any penalties, which could include fines, potential closure or incarceration. Platinum Plus and the Solicitor’s Office must submit written statements supporting their cases within 10 days before Simmons makes his decision.
“This has to do with upholding the sanctity of a judicial order and an agreement that we had with the defendant in a nuisance action,” Wilkins said. “We’re alleging that they are not holding up their end of the bargain. We’re alleging they’re a bad corporate citizen, and they’re not complying with what they have agreed with.”
An undercover officer testified that he went to the club and purchased dances in the Champagne Room. He and another officer spent $3,000 in three visits, using money Wilkins said was provided by Platinum Plus under the terms of the 2015 consent order.
Wilkins said authorities are not targeting Platinum Plus or a specific industry. He said officers have visited other strip clubs and have not found any violations. Some other strip clubs don’t have to wear pasties, Wilkins said, or have underwear with 2-inch coverage.
“They don’t have to because they are regulated differently than this establishment,” Wilkins said. “This establishment is regulated under a consent order, so they’re different.”
The Sheriff's Office conducted a yearlong, undercover investigation into Platinum Plus after receiving numerous tips and allegations about prostitution at the club. Authorities alleged the club, in essence, acted as a brothel. The investigation resulted in charges against dancers, hostesses and a manager. In April 2015, the Solicitor’s Office filed a lawsuit against Elephant Inc., alleging it was a nuisance and seeking its closure.
The Sheriff's Office documented more than 1,000 calls for service to the business. On average, deputies responded to Platinum Plus once every three days, Wilkins said.
In May 2015, Simmons granted a temporary injunction to close the club pending the outcome of a trial. The case never made it to trial when Platinum Plus and the Solicitor’s Office agreed to close the business for six months. Wilkins proclaimed Platinum Plus would no longer be a sexually-oriented business and would have to adhere to terms of the consent order, which incorporated a consent order Platinum Plus signed in 2002.
“There are sexually-oriented businesses in Greenville County that get to operate as a sexually-oriented business,” Wilkins said. “This establishment is not operating as a sexually-oriented business because they’ve agreed not to. They’ve agreed to act as a nightclub.”
Wilkins said a nightclub cannot engage in “lascivious touching, groping, simulated sex acts.”
In April, the Solicitor's Office filed a rule to show cause to enforce the consent order, leading to Tuesday's hearing.
The state called four witnesses to testify, including two undercover officers, a Solicitor’s Office investigator and a stripper who was terminated this year after engaging in simulated sex acts at Platinum Plus.
Jeff Smith, the investigator, communicated with Platinum Plus about the placement of cameras throughout the club, including in the Champagne and Couch Rooms. Smith testified that he watched about 10 hours of video from the nightclub when dancers interacted with customers. He said he saw multiple violations of customers fondling dancers and Culbreath played video of the encounters.