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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    Strip club closed for 30 days over evidence of prostitution

    TOLLAND — The town has closed the Electric Blue strip club for 30 days after receiving information that state police have reason to believe that prostitution and sexual activity have been taking place there for several years, Town Manager Brian Foley said Friday.

    Foley made the disclosure after agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted a law enforcement operation at the club Thursday with the assistance of state police.

    The parking lot of the club — on the lower level of a small strip mall on Merrow Road, just off Exit 68 from Interstate 84 — was cordoned off with crime-scene tape Thursday. A state police major crime van was parked outside the club's front door, and several police cruisers were parked in the lot.

    Foley said the Tolland resident trooper's office told him Thursday morning that everyone was safe and nearby businesses were open. He said the operation was described as a "secondary-type investigation," with no one hurt or being chased by law enforcement officers.

    Later in the day, Foley said, he received a letter from Tolland Resident Trooper Kevin Eklund, which said, "During the course of the investigation, it has been revealed that for several years up to and including the present time we have reason to believe that prostitution and sexual activity have occurred on the premises."

    Foley said he consulted Town Attorney Richard Conti, and a decision was made to suspend Electric Blue's business license for 30 days as authorized by the town code. David Corcoran, the Tolland planning and development director, imposed the suspension in a letter to Electric Blue.

    The town code details an appeal process and various options that both the town and the business can pursue, Foley said.

    "There are a lot of legal options for the town," the manager and former state police official said. "We'll closely examine all of them."

    A state police spokesman said Thursday that troopers were present at Electric Blue to assist the Homeland Security investigators.

    Contacted via email, Kaitlyn Pote, a spokeswoman for the New England field office of the Department of Homeland Security's investigative arm, replied Thursday, writing: "Homeland Security Investigations and law enforcement partners are participating in a joint investigation at a business in Tolland, Connecticut, this morning. As this is an ongoing investigation, we're not able to comment further at this time."

    Likewise, Tom Carson of the Connecticut U.S. attorney's office had no comment, saying nothing related to the situation had happened in court on Thursday.

    Attempts to reach Electric Blue's management for comment Thursday were unsuccessful, as a telephone call went unanswered and a form on the club's website for submitting electronic messages didn't work.

    Three women described as "well-known professional models" sued Electric Blue LLC and its principal, Kenneth Denning of Holland, Mass., in 2019, alleging "misappropriation, alteration, and unauthorized publication and use in advertising" of their images.

    The suit, filed by Ariany Celeste Lopez, Katarina Van Derham, and Paola Canas, all of Los Angeles County, Calif., alleged that the company and Denning used their images "to promote their strip club, Electric Blue Café in Tolland, Connecticut."

    In a 2021 stipulated judgment, the club operator, now referred to as Denning Enterprises Inc., agreed to pay the women $270,000 and assign them rights to its insurance policy.

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