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Kahoots Owners Sue Columbus And Former Vice Officers

Six former workers at Kahoots strip club in northwest Columbus say they were unjustly arrested by Columbus Police Vice officers.
Adora Namigadde
The former owners of Kahoots strip club sued the city of Columbus and former Vice Unit officers.

Owners of the now-shuttered Kahoots strip club have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Columbus and two former Vice Unit officers.

Icon Entertainment Group owned the club operations, while 4522 Kenny Road, LLC owned the land on which Kahoots sat. The owners sold the building in Northwest Columbus to apartment developer Preferred Living last June.

Cooper Elliot attorney Bart Keyes, who represents the former club owners, says that officers Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster are the reason Kahoots went out of business.

“In this particular case, their enforcement activity, which they knew was not proper, had the effect of basically driving this company out of business and forcing them to close down,” Keyes said. 

Rosser and Lancaster were part of the Vice Unit team that arrested porn star Stormy Daniels at a different strip club in 2018. Several former Kahoots dancers sued Rosser and Lancaster for unjustly arresting them, saying they were targeted as retaliation for the club firing a police informant.

“These officers were essentially using their positions of authority to dictate to business owners who they can hire and who they can associate with,” Keyes said. “And when these business owners tried to stand up and took issue with some of the things that the officers were trying to strong arm them into doing, the officers then turned around and engaged in these enforcement activities.”

Columbus Police and the city of Columbus declined to comment on pending litigation.

Timeline: Investigation Of Columbus Police Vice Unit

Rosser and Lancaster were relieved of duty in 2018, amid multiple FBI investigations into the Vice Unit. That team was officially disbanded by the department last spring.

Last July, Rosser and Lancaster were among a group of officers departmentally charged over the arrest of Daniels, which an internal investigation found was "improper." Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan recommended in September 2019 that the city Public Safety director terminate Lancaster and Rosser.

As of January 2020, the two officers still work for the department. The FBI investigations remain ongoing.

The federal suit was filed on January 7. Keyes expects a conference between all involved parties to occur within the next month. That meeting would help determine a court schedule or settlement.

"What we're asking for is damages," Keyes said. "In this kind of case, that's the only thing you can ask for. And so we're asking that the city and the officers be held accountable and have to make the companies whole by paying damages for the harm that they caused."

Keyes says it is too early in the litigation process to know how much money the owners want to receive in damages.

If you have information to share about the Vice Unit, contact WOSU at adora@wosu.org.