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Denying it is a strip club, Fargo business refutes claims it misused models' photos in ads

Believed to be the only open gentleman's club in North Dakota, the business is facing accusations that it didn't pay models to use their images on social media. The Northern claimed it used two advertising companies that assured them it was legal to use the images, according to a court filing.

Northern Gentleman's Club
The Northern Gentleman's Club in Fargo is facing a lawsuit that alleges it used photos of models without their permission and without paying them for the rights to use the photos in advertisements.
Forum file photo
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FARGO — A Fargo dance and night club said it did not use images of professional models without permission , according to a court filing in which the business denied being a strip club.

The Northern Gentleman’s Club has asked a federal judge in North Dakota to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it last year. At the heart of the case are 17 “well-known” models who have no connection to the business, according to court documents. Most are from the U.S., but at least two live in Europe.

The lawsuit alleged The Northern, also known as Ferny Properties, used photos of the models in advertisements on social media without their permission.

The Northern also did not pay the models for the rights to use the photos, the lawsuit said.

Supporting The Northern could “harm, defame and disparage” the model’s reputations and brands, making it difficult for them to obtain work of their own choosing, according to the lawsuit. That is why the models would not advertise or promote the club, a complaint filed in November said.

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“As a direct and proximate result of (The Northern’s) exploitation of (the models’) images and identities, (the club) made profits or gross revenues in an amount to be established at trial,” the lawsuit said.

The models listed a number of what they claimed were their images that were posted to The Northern’s Facebook page. However, it appears those photos were deleted or unavailable on the social media website as of Tuesday, Feb. 8.

The Northern denied any wrongdoing in its answer to the models’ complaint, alleging any damages are the fault of the models. It also denied being a strip club. Instead, it has billed itself on social media as a dance and night club, as well as a lounge.

The Northern said it worked with In-House Advertising and Consulting, as well as Off-the-Wall Advertising. Those two companies assured The Northern that the photos were properly obtained, according to the club's filing.

In-House and Off-the-Wall are not named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Edmund Aronowitz, a Michigan attorney who is representing the models, declined to comment on this story. Bradley Beehler, a Grand Forks attorney who is defending The Northern, did not return messages left by The Forum.

The Northern appears to be the only open strip tease venue in North Dakota. Wallys Wild West Roadhouse in Devils Lake closed in November but said on Facebook it is working to reopen before spring 2023.

It’s unclear why it closed. It’s also unknown whether it will reopen in its current location along U.S. Highway 2 or in another building.

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The Forum was unable to leave a message when it called Wallys.

Envy Gentlemen's Club in Minot lost a lawsuit to operate as a strip club in 2020. The now-closed downtown bar stopped hosting dancers in 2011 after a city ordinance would have forced the club to move to a heavy industrial area, according to the Minot Daily News.

Envy couldn’t find a new location and sued the city. A federal judge dismissed the case after the club failed to respond.

Minot had a second strip club called The Chicago, but it, too, has closed since the ordinance change.

A strip club opened for a few days on the outskirts of Fargo in 2010 but was closed by city inspectors due to building code deficiencies.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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