Lawsuit settlement would keep Fla. fire marshal out of bikini bars
Other fire inspectors will still check the businesses, but the agreement would bar Fire Marshal Kevin Jones from inspecting seven adult entertainment businesses
By Steve Patterson
The Florida Times-Union
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville's fire marshal will sit out inspections at a series of bikini bars as part of an agreement filed in federal court to end a lawsuit by a business that claimed its rights were violated.
Other fire inspectors will still check the businesses as always, but the agreement outlined this week would bar Fire Marshal Kevin Jones from inspecting seven adult entertainment businesses for the next nine months.
The first business on the list, Wacko's at 3701 Emerson St., sued the city in January, claiming it had been needlessly closed by a "cease and desist" order Jones wrote about fire code violations in March 2017.
City attorneys flatly denied Jones or other inspectors did anything wrong, but this week they joined Wacko's attorney Gary Edinger in asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to approve a consent judgment that would outline changes to city inspection habits and would end the lawsuit.
Edinger said the changes would lower the chance of a business being shut down if there isn't an "imminent danger" to the people inside.
"Jacksonville routinely closes businesses on an emergency basis," Edinger argued, saying that other cities where inspectors find code violations issue citations and send business owners who dispute the violations to code hearings without shutting them down on the spot.
The consent order spells out rules for fire inspectors to follow, including asking permission to search inside businesses and handing out notices that tell a business owner he doesn't have to allow an inspection, but that the inspector can get a warrant and then inspect without permission.
The consent order also includes a list of adult entertainment businesses Jones isn't supposed to inspect for nine months unless he's following up a "documented complaint" about a fire code violation at night or on a weekend.
Besides Wacko's, Edinger said the others are all clients of his.
Edinger said Jones is "unusually knowledgeable" about the fire code and diligent, but some of his clients besides Wacko's have had concerns about Jones' inspections. Putting more inspections on pause addresses concerns about a personal conflict, he said.
Corrigan hadn't acted Thursday on the motion, which was filed Monday. But in October, after the two sides reported to him that they had reached an agreement through mediation, the judge told them to file paperwork to close out the case file by Jan. 15.
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