Mons Venus target of accessibility lawsuit

August 9th, 2010 by Staff

TAMPA – Mons Venus in Tampa is named in a federal lawsuit. A disabled man says the strip club doesn’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiff Kendrick Duldulao cites 24 violations. Mons Owner Joe Redner says he’s willing to cooperate, but can’t get permits to renovate because of zoning.

“I am a non-conforming use,” Redner explained to FOX 13. “You can’t expand or improve a non-conforming use, according to the city code.”

Redner says he’ll go to the city to try to get the permits he needs for renovations. Although Redner says he wants to improve accessibility for disabled patrons at Mons Venus, he believes the club could be exempt from ADA guidelines because he hasn’t done any major renovations since it opened in 1982.

However, the ADA requires that even businesses pre-dating January 1993 follow the accessibility guidelines, as long as it is “readily achievable” and doesn’t involve “much difficulty or expense.”

Redner says up to a dozen wheelchair-bound customers visit Mons Venus every week.

“We have ramps … portable ramps we put in and we have people push them up, take them anywhere they want to go,” said Redner. “They should be able to go themselves. They shouldn’t have to have people push them around, unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he said.

Duldulao, who could not be reached for comment, has filed several similar lawsuits. Tampa Attorney Todd Aidman, who is not involved in Duldulao’s cases, says ADA compliance complaints are becoming increasingly common. He says while many of the businesses that are sued are in fact failing to comply with the ADA, the motives behind the legal claims are financial, rather than altruistic.

Legally, plaintiffs can’t receive damages, but they can get thousands of dollars in attorney fees.

“There are some people that believe [attorney fees] may be kicked back to the individuals,” said Aidman, who has defended businesses in about 100 ADA cases. “In one situation, the restaurant had been closed for three months when they claimed they went there. So, it was very clear the plaintiff never actually went there.”

Joseph Raetano of Clearwater says he doesn’t get a dime. Raetano, who is in a wheelchair, says he’s filed more than 200 lawsuits against businesses not properly accessible to the disabled.

“They just have a blind eye to it. They don’t think they have to do it,” he said.

Every week, Raetano and a Miami-Dade County man he calls his “expert witness” go in search of violators of the ADA in the Tampa Bay area. “It’s mostly the bathrooms, table heights, entrances, parking spaces,” Raetano said.

Raetano says he has about 100 cases pending. He says the only thing he gets out of the lawsuits is satisfaction.

Friday, Duldulao’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

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