Strip club says it is bankrupt

The Joker club filed for bankruptcy this week, more than two years after a $1 million judgment against the owners.

A Charleston gentlemen's club that turned not-so-gentlemanly after a 2001 fight between employees and two patrons filed for bankruptcy this week, more than two years after it was ordered to pay $1 million in legal damages to the customers involved in the altercation.

The Joker Supper Club Restaurant and Lounge sought protection from creditors in Columbia on Wednesday.

The club listed $24,915 in assets and more than $1.4 million in debts, including the court judgment.

Attorney David L. Savage, who represented the customers injured in the fight, said lawyers have been trying to track down the club's assets since the judgment was awarded in May 2006.

Savage called the bankruptcy filing a way "to unjustifiably avoid the verdict. If they can't pay their legal debts, then they shouldn't be in business."

Attorney Nathan Davis, who is handling the club's reorganization, said judgments are treated the same as unsecured debts in bankruptcy cases. The restructuring will allow the club to work out a repayment plan with its creditors.

"I know that something will be paid, but I have no idea of the final amount," Davis said.

Attorney Bill Runyon, who also represents the Joker, said the strip club remains open. He also said it is like any other business facing financial hardship.

"The business may be unique, but the problems are not unique," Runyon said. "This is no different from any other business that faces some financial difficulties in the operation of their business."

Circuit Court Judge Markley Dennis ordered the club to pay $1 million to a father and son who said they were beaten by two employees inside the Joker.

Christopher D. Martin, who was 25 at the time of the incident, and his father, Dale L. Martin, who was 46, sued the Joker in October 2003 for damages related to their injuries.

The two Summerville men were treated at Trident Medical Center and required several stitches to their heads, according to a Charleston police report.

The son also suffered fractured bones in the eye and nose area, the report said. The two told police the employees beat them with their hands, feet and wooden clubs.

Five years after the incident, Dennis awarded the younger Martin $150,000 in actual damages and $400,000 in punitive damages. The judge also said the elder Martin should receive $100,000 in actual damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

Savage said two men visited the King Street Extension club with out-of-town clients. Their first drink order arrived just before the lights came on, signaling closing time, he said.

When an employee told the Martins and their guests it was time to leave, the younger Martin told the employee they had just received their drinks, Savage said.

The club worker responded with an expletive and flicked a cigarette toward the son and a fight ensued, Savage said.

He said the son was pummelled to the floor, and the father tried to intervene but was hit in the back of the head with a club. The son was struck again with a chair while he lay on the floor, Savage said.

The Martins left the club and initially went back to their clients' hotel room to clean up, but they later were taken to the hospital because of the severity of the wounds, according to the police report.

The elder Martin was treated for a laceration to the top of his head that required eight stitches, a swollen right eye and minor cuts around his right eye, the police report said.

The son suffered a cut to the back of his head that required six stitches, a cut to his forehead that required 11 stitches, fractured facial bones and swollen eyes, the report said.

Runyon said the Martins' initial refusal to leave led to the altercation.

"When you come in there, you are expected to act like gentlemen," Runyon said. "They would not have been asked to leave if it were not for the city's 2 a.m. bar-closing law."