The Ebony Inn, a popular Fairmount Heights barbecued ribs restaurant owned by Maryland State Sen. Tommie Broadwater, is being investigated for allowing nude go-go dancing, according to Prince George's County liquor board chairman Robert Miller.
Nude dancing -- as opposed to topless dancing -- is against liquor board regulations, Miller said, and if the Ebony Inn is found in violation, Broadwater and coowner Sebrone King Sr. could be fined, their liquor license suspended or revoked and the club closed permanently.
Nude dancing is also against Maryland state law, said county state's attorney Arthur (Bud) Marshall.
Topless dancing is legal in Prince George's, and the Ebony Inn has offered it for some time, King said. But last Tuesday night the audience watched one of two female dancers perform wearing only a black garter on her left thigh.
Broadwater said he was not at the Ebony Inn Tuesday night and was unaware that nude dancing took place at his club. Besides, he said, if the dancer was wearing a garter, "That's not nude dancing then. That's permissible."
King said that if a dancer was nude Tuesday night it was because she was new to the club and didn't realize -- as he does -- that such entertainment is illegal. Broadwater said King told him that he had talked with the dancer and "straightened her out."
"I didn't see her," King said. "She wasn't supposed to be naked. The other one knows ain't no nude dancing allowed. I'd never seen that skinny one before. Nude dancing is against the law. You can do that in D.C., but out here the girls are supposed to wear a G-string." Male go-go dancers, who also appear at the Ebony Inn, must wear bikini underwear, he said.
Nude go-go dancing at a club owned by Broadwater, one of the most influential black politicians in Maryland, caught some of his fellow politicians by surprise.
State Sen. John Garrity (D-Prince George's) said he is disappointed that Broadwater would allow such entertainment and that it damages the reputation of Prince George's County. "If it is going on," he said, "I hope he will put a stop to it."
"It's not in keeping with the kind of posture that a Maryland state senator would condone in his place of business," said state Sen. B.W. Mike Donovan (D-Prince George's).
Sen. Thomas Patrick O'Reilly (D-Prince George's) agreed: "Legality aside, I don't believe the county should be promoting . . . topless go-go dancing and the like."
But state Sen. Arthur Dorman (D-Prince George's) said, "What Mr. Broadwater does is his business."
"If they've got the license for it," said Lawrence Hogan Jr., an aide to the county executive, of topless dancing at the Ebony Inn, "there's not much the county can do about it. If they don't have a license, they can be closed down for it."
Actually, only establishments that began offering topless dancing since a new law governing it went into effect in 1980 must receive liquor board approval. The board has assumed that the Ebony Inn offered topless entertainment before then, said board member Gerard Holcomb, so the club does not require board approval.
Broadwater, a bail bondsman who represents the 25th District, which abuts Washington, became coowner of the Ebony Inn in 1976, King said. Broadwater said he visits the club as often as he can, but leaves its daily management to King.
"I take all the responsibilities for the Ebony Inn," Broadwater said, "but the everyday running of the Ebony Inn is done by my partner."
The hired dancers are supplied by an unidentified man King said he knows only as Knight. The man calls once a week to ask how many dancers are needed each week -- usually one female dancer on Monday nights and two on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, King said.
Last Tuesday night, two females performed in half-hour-or-so shifts to juke-box music.
"They were mesmerized, hypnotized," said Makila James, a visitor from New York, of the men in their early 20s who were watching the show. "It didn't even seem they were enjoying it as sensual entertainment . . . Basically, I felt it was a very warped perspective they were gettng on women and sex.
"I would come back to the place," she added, "because the crowd was generally nice and most of the crowd seemed to be ignoring the dancers."