CORDOVA, TN – The owner of Stella Marris is suing the city of Memphis - again. Steve Cooper insists the city is violating his Constitutional rights by not approving his application to hire dancers at his Cordova restaurant. In his federal lawsuit, he claims the city’s “actions and resolutions operate as an unconstitutional prior restraint on protected expression,” and deprive him “of the equal protection of the laws.” He says the city has also denied him “due process.”
“It doesn't surprise me one bit,” said Brian Stephens, vice president of the Cordova Leadership Council, which has fought to keep Stella Marris from expanding beyond a restaurant. “We've always known his true intentions are to open up a strip joint."
Cooper has said that's not true, but Stephens believes Cooper's pursuit of that dance permit is proof enough.
“As long as he doesn't open up a strip joint at that location, we're winning,” Stephens said. “And if it takes forever, that's what we're going to do."
abc24.com called Cooper's attorney for his side of the story. He didn't return our calls.
Cooper applied for that dance hall permit in February, but Memphis City Council postponed issuing new permits until May 1st. When that moratorium expired, Cooper applied again. In his lawsuit, he said Memphis City Council ordered another moratorium.
This one lasts through July 6th.
Stella Marris is closed now for renovations.
“The drugs, the prostitution, the gangs and the violence spills over into the neighboring communities and destroys neighborhoods,” Stephens said. “And that's what we're not going to tolerate."