The ongoing fight between the Ugly Monkey, situated at 302 S. Meridian St. in Union Station, and its landlord, the City of Indianapolis, comes to the courtroom Wednesday, May 12. Attorneys will argue before a circuit court judge over whether a preliminary injunction should be given to allow the Ugly Monkey to remain open for business while the matter is decided in court.
Patrons dance on the bar during the Miss School Girl Contest at the Ugly Monkey Oct. 18, 2003.
In a letter delivered to the Ugly Monkey April 30, the city stripped the bar of its lease and gave them 14 days to clear out, citing two incidents in October when nude behavior was reported in the club. The Ugly Monkey quickly sued the city for breaking the lease. “We want them shut down, we want to get in there and get a respectable tenant who will respect the limits outlined in the lease to begin with,” said Justin Ohlemiller, spokesman for the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission. “They’ve obviously shown they have no regard for public decency or for following the terms of the lease … They have not changed their behavior at all.” Bob Garelick, attorney for the Ugly Monkey, pointed out that in the instances cited by the city, the women were removed from the stage and dance floor by Ugly Monkey employees, and in the time since, staff has taken steps to prevent such incidents from reoccurring. “They employed an off-duty policeman to stay on the premises and supervise the contests. He’s going to testify that he’s been there since October and he hasn’t seen any violations,” Garelick said. “He’s going to say that compared to any other place like this in the city, the Ugly Monkey is a dream! The place is run so much better, the laws are followed so much more carefully.” Furthermore, Garelick said, Ugly Monkey employees and contestants must sign an agreement saying that they won’t violate any laws. According to Garelick, all this adds up to a strong case for keeping the Ugly Monkey’s lease. “The lease gives Ugly Monkey 20 days to cure any event of default, and they cured it,” Garelick said. “They wrote the city a letter in November saying, ‘Here’s all the things we’ve done to keep from having any more problems.’ And then they didn’t hear from the city for months. For whatever reason, and there’s got to be something here that’s not disclosed, on April 30 the city sent the Ugly Monkey the letter. We’re exploring what ulterior motives might be at work here.” Ohlemiller said that the city’s position is that this is more than a few isolated incidents, but a continuing pattern of behavior that is not solved by releases or additional security. The letter cites events such as the recent “Sexy Cheerleader contest” as evidence that the Ugly Monkey does not take their warnings seriously. “Since [October] we have pictures taken from IPD of girls removing clothing during contests, so there is evidence,” he said. “Plus there’s the fact that they’re continuing to promote these contests. It’s not just the lewd behavior; it’s the fact that they’re promoting these events. Obviously, through the events and ads, they are promoting an atmosphere that will lead to patrons losing control a bit and removing clothing. It’s something that’s unacceptable, particularly on city property, and we can’t have it.” Garelick said this was the first he’s heard of pictures by the Indianapolis Police Department. “I’ll be anxious to see that,” Garelick said. “And I’d be surprised if that’s factual, because we’ve had an Indianapolis off-duty police officer on the scene from before Halloween to the present, and he’s reported no police in the place other than himself. [He] will testify that any time anybody gets close to the line, as he perceives it, of improper conduct, he yanks them off. That’s happened on one or two occasions through all these months.” The preliminary injunction hearing takes place 1:30 p.m. Wednesday on the fifth floor of the City-County Building.