Monday, November 29, 1999

Adult businesses moving to 'burbs

N.Ky. finds issue heading its way

The Cincinnati Enquirer

A dancer performs on the main stage at Bristol's Show Club and Revue in Monroe.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        Northern Kentucky leaders see them approaching: the porn shops, peep shows and other adult businesses that already have invaded other Tristate communities.

        Now, like officials across the country, they are scrambling to block or deter sexually oriented businesses from opening in their communities.

        Given First Amendment protections for printed materials, videotapes and dancing, Kentuckians don't have to look far to see that it won't be easy to deter entrepreneurs who sense a ready market:

        • Cincinnati is battling Hustler publisher Larry Flynt over his desire to operate a retail store downtown rather than be banished by zoning to an industrial area as a sexually oriented business.

        • In Butler County, adult video stores operate despite repeated obscenity trials. Bristol's Show Club and Revue survives despite community opposition in Monroe, where officials are preparing their stand against any attempt by Mr. Flynt to open a Hustler store.

        • In Clermont County, Rumours strip club (now called Deja Vu) beat back Union Township licensing efforts when a federal court said the lack of time limits on licensing and renewal decisions was an unconstitutional flaw.

        ┘For decades, Newport was known as Sin City for its buffet of adult entertainments and its continuing strip shows. However, it is the suburban growth in Southwest Ohio that provoked the latest defensive maneuvers in Northern Kentucky.

        “We have seen the tendency for adult-oriented businesses to

        be popping up on the 275 beltway, especially on the east side of Cincinnati,” said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore. “With the heavy traffic patterns and prime land here, it might be a place where they might want to locate.”

        “I want to make sure Kenton County is protected as best we can be,” said Kenton County Commissioner Barb Black.

        That kind of public hostility is unwarranted and fed by well-practiced opposition groups who oppose any aspect of sexually oriented businesses, according to Terry Wolf, spokesman for Bristol's and president of the new Ohio Cabaret Association, representing some 20 adult-oriented businesses. “They paint an ugly picture about the whole industry. A lot of people in this area are misinformed about adult clubs.”

        Residents have mixed opinions about adult businesses.

        Laura Hellman, a 34-year-old mother of four in Newport who lives half a block from Monmouth Street's topless clubs, said she'd like to be rid of them “because there are too many kids around.”

        But one of Ms. Hellman's neighbors, Bill Kinneary, 41, has a different view: “Pornography. Isn't that up to the individual? No one says you have to go buy it. No one forces people to go to those places.”

        These debates are increasingly moving to the suburbs — and not just in the Tristate.

        “Pretty much everyone sees something similar happening nationwide,” said Alan Weinstein, a law professor at Cleveland State University who has followed the trend. “From my perspective, it's happening all over. It doesn't seem to be unique to the Ohio River area.

        “A large part of what's going on is simply business. Sexually oriented businesses are following the market to the suburbs.”

Caught off-guard
        Growing communities sometimes are unprepared for the appearance of adult businesses — such as Monroe before the Bristol's club. That caught Monroe “with our ordinances down,” Mayor Elbert Tannreuther conceded recently.

        In about half of Kentucky's 120 counties, there is no zoning. In others, antiquated ordinances that once addressed sexually oriented businesses may not survive court challenges. Still other zoning codes lack definitions of sexually oriented businesses.

        Where bans failed, some Southwest Ohio communities embraced zoning ordinances to restrict where they may operate, with mixed results.

        Warren County has one exotic dance club — New York New York in Franklin — but no adult video stores. In Clermont and Butler, some adult clubs and video stores have fought ordinances in court or successfully defended against obscenity prosecutions. Local authorities once relied heavily on obscenity laws to close or prevent the opening of sexually oriented businesses.

        Battered by 1970s legal battles between Mr. Flynt and Simon L. Leis Jr., then Hamilton County prosecuting attorney, the county was without exotic dance clubs or adult video stores until 1998.

        Then, Mr. Flynt opened a downtown store that sold explicit adult videos, toys and magazines.

        “It's years behind the rest of the nation,” attorney H. Louis Sirkin, local counsel for Mr. Flynt, said of Hamilton County.

        Residents of Butler and Clermont counties have “shown their willing ness and independence in upholding rights,” said Mr. Sirkin, who also has represented Deja Vu and adult video stores in those counties.

        Communities cannot ban sex-related businesses outright because the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that their speech-related materials or expressive activities have some protection under the First Amendment.

Ordinances passed
        That left it to local communities to develop regulations and zoning requirements:

        • Kenton County passed an adult entertainment ordinance in October patterned after a model ordinance from the Municipal Defense Counsel, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based legal clearinghouse on adult entertainment and regulatory issues. The model is derived from laws that have withstood court challenges.

        Adult businesses are “not like a normal business that you give a license for,” Kenton Commissioner Black said.

        Kenton County's new law establishes a one-time licensing fee of $890 and annual $540 renewal fee for owners of sexually oriented businesses. Employees must pay a $350 licensing fee and $20 annual renewal.

        County officials say they may soon restrict where adult businesses can operate. Some suggest limiting clubs to industrial zones.

        • Covington officials are postponing enforcement of the county ordinance adopted last month. They are watching a federal suit filed by bar owners who say the local ordinance is too restrictive and violates their rights. A hearing is set for December. To help withstand that challenge, the city commission recently added appeal rights for employees as well as owners.

        • Taylor Mill is waiting to see if the fiscal court creates a zone in Kenton County before the commission addresses the issue. • Crescent Springs passed an ordinance last month to create an adult entertainment area in the Anderson Road industrial zone. It includes limitations on parking, type of entertainment and employees'association with customers. It includes the same nominal licensing fee as for other businesses.

        • Boone Fiscal Court recently added definitions of sexually oriented businesses to the zoning code and Florence City Council also approved such legislation.

        Judge-executive Moore said the county is studying the issue. “My goal is to keep them out of the county. Period.”

        Boone is relying on Administrator Jim Parsons, the Newport city solicitor who drafted the nude dancing ban allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986.

        Newport created a zone for sexually oriented businesses in 1977. In 1982, it adopted an ordinance that forbade nude dancing in businesses with liquor licenses.

        “If you can't regulate it directly, you do it indirectly,” Mr. Parsons said.

        Tha Supreme Court allowed local regulation of sexually oriented activity in establishments with a liquor license. In 1990, the Supreme Court also allowed regulation of any sexually oriented businesses.

        “Now you don't have to have alcohol,” Mr. Parsons said. “You can do it without relying on the sale of liquor.”

        A Supreme Court decision doesn't necessarily clarify every local struggle.

        “After the decision comes down, then the question begins to center around whether you (as a city, county or township) have the legal authority under state law to regulate things,” Mr. Parsons said.

        But, he said, “The biggest thing is to make sure they keep them out. Once they come in, they're not easy to get rid of.” Enquirer reporters Michael D. Clark and Andrea Tortora contributed to this report.


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