Cities use local laws to curb strip clubs

ByABC News
March 15, 2008, 6:08 PM

— -- A growing number of cities and counties are using zoning, licensing regulations and other techniques to discourage strip clubs without running afoul of the businesses' First Amendment rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that cities and states can ban nude dancing and regulate adult-oriented businesses, but can't prohibit them from operating. Federal courts generally protect such businesses unless communities can prove "harmful secondary effects" increased crime, blight or diminished property values.

"This is a pressing issue all across the country," says David Hudson, a scholar at the First Amendment Center, a free-speech forum. "City officials are struggling with ways to regulate and limit and even try to prohibit adult entertainment."

Angelina Spencer, executive director of the Association of Club Executives, a strip-club trade association, says legislative efforts to restrict the nation's 3,000 clubs are increasing, especially in rural areas. "We aren't opposed to regulations," she says. "We're opposed to oppressive legislation designed to put these places out of business."

In January, Jasper County, Mo., commissioners reacted to plans for a nude juice bar by voting to ban total nudity, require employee background checks and HIV tests and keep clubs 2,000 feet from churches, schools and homes.

The rules are meant to be so restrictive that such clubs decide to locate elsewhere, Presiding County Commissioner John Bartosh said. "We can't stop them from opening, but we can make tough restrictions so they can't make any money."

Last week, the building's owner scrapped plans for nude strippers and decided to open a bar and adult video store. Bartosh says he "definitely" believes the new limits forced the change. Lawyer Bill Fleischaker, who represents the owner, says the business will "comply with the ordinance."

Eric Damian Kelly, an urban planning professor at Indiana's Ball State University who advises communities on ways to limit adult businesses, says they often locate in small towns and rural areas with no applicable zoning or other rules.