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Nov 26, 12:13 PM EST

Leveled strip club's owner sues over gas explosion

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- The owner of a strip club that was destroyed in a natural gas explosion in Massachusetts has sued the utility for $5 million, claiming the company was deprived of years of "generous" income.

The lawsuit against Columbia Gas says the owner of Scores Gentleman's Club "has forever lost the ability to use the property for its club" because a 2003 Springfield ordinance that bars new adult entertainment venues prevents rebuilding it.

The suit was filed earlier this month in Hampden Superior Court, according to The Republican ( http://bit.ly/11YIP6L ) newspaper of Springfield.

The November 2012 explosion was caused when a Columbia employee accidentally punctured a gas line while probing for a leak. The blast leveled the club and damaged dozens of other buildings.

Eighteen people were injured, but none seriously because the area was evacuated before the explosion.

Investigators ruled the explosion an accident.

A Columbia spokeswoman said she could not comment on a pending lawsuit but said the utility has been negotiating out-of-court settlements with other claimants.

"If a claimant determines this is the next step they want to take, we understand that," Sheila Doiron said.

Scores' lawyer, Daniel Kelly, represents two other companies that have sued the utility.

The owner of a nearby building that also housed a strip club, which is still operating, is suing for $500,000 for damage.

Starlight Entertainment, a vending machine contractor at Scores, is suing for $322,800 in lost revenue.

Columbia previously gave $850,000 to the city for its losses and expenses including property damage, personnel costs and a planning grant to help rebuild the area.

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Information from: The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, http://www.masslive.com/news/

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