CT Supreme Court denies appeal from Milford strip club sued by exotic dancers

Keepers Gentlemen's Club on Woodmont Road. in Milford.

Keepers Gentlemen's Club on Woodmont Road. in Milford.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — The state Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from a Woodmont Road "gentlemen's club" that asked it to overturn a $113,560 judgment to dancers who worked there affirmed by the Connecticut Appellate Court in October.

“The defendants’ petition for certification to appeal from the Appellate Court…is denied,” read the one sentence order, dated Jan. 17.

The lawyer who filed the appeal, Stephen R. Bellis, said the denial wasn’t a surprise.

“The writ is rarely granted so the judgment is now final,” he said in an email Monday.

The ruling comes more than seven years after the exotic dancers first filed a lawsuit claiming they were not being paid a minimum wage or overtime after working 40 hours in any week and were fined for breaking the club rules — and more than three years after an arbitrator ruled in their favor.

The strip club had argued the dancers were independent contractors and therefore not entitled to the same benefits as employees. 

But the dancers’ lawyer, who last week asked a judge to approve $41,661 more in attorney fees in the case, said it’s unclear when he and his clients will get paid — and who will do the paying. 

“I hope sooner rather than later,” the lawyer, Kenneth Krayeske, said Monday, estimating the initial judgment in the case has since grown to nearly $250,000 including interest, costs, and fees, exclusive of the additional money he asked the court to approve last week.

Bellis indicated he would object on the club’s behalf to the awarding of any more fees, but did not comment further.

The appeals process has been playing out at the same time as a bankruptcy case involving the club’s former owner and president, Fairfield resident Joseph Regensburger, who filed a Chapter 7 petition days after the arbitrator’s original decision was affirmed in state court in October 2020.

Last month a federal government lawyer filed a complaint saying Regensburger should be barred from declaring bankruptcy, citing dozens of separate instances in which he allegedly concealed assets or “knowingly and fraudulently” failed to disclose details of his financial affairs — including tens of thousands of dollars in checks signed by Gus Curcio, a former reputed mobster who lives in Stratford, and is associated with the club.

Regensburger has repeatedly declined to comment publicly on the case, but in an answer to the complaint filed last month said he was “feeling overwhelmed and defeated” while denying any wrongdoing.

“I feel as though I tried to utilize the government’s option to get a fresh start and because of my previous business dealings and friendship with Mr. Curcio that I am being crucified,” he wrote.

“It seems like (use of the Bankruptcy Court) is only available to those who don’t know Mr. Curcio,” he wrote later in his 22-page response to the feds. 

Krayeske said it was his duty to seek satisfaction of the judgment by whoever can pay.

He said he would seek money from any of the many limited liability companies the club is associated with — or even its Keno account with the state lottery — to satisfy the judgment.

“I am going full bore,” Krayeske said. “I am going to get paid. I’ve worked for eight years on this file. I’m not letting it go.”

A lawyer representing Curcio declined comment Monday.