Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sex-business law advancing

Yearlong effort in Campbell, Kenton counties at public comment stage

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When a woman sits beside a man to talk, it's usually not against the law, but it could be soon in some cases, Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson said.

Intimate conversations between dancers and patrons of adult nightclubs would be prohibited under a proposed regional law that Kenton County officials will consider next month.

"This ordinance would regulate the conversations by prohibiting the intermingling of the dancers with the patrons,'' Edmondson said. "When the women are dancing on stage, they cannot go into the audience or solicit for prostitution in booths.''

The public can have its say on the sexually oriented business ordinance, which has been more than a year in the making, at a special Kenton County Fiscal Court meeting April 20. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Fort Mitchell city building. A vote is expected two weeks later.

Campbell County Fiscal Court also will consider the law at about the same time, Campbell County Attorney Justin Verst said. For the past year, both counties have worked with a consultant to draft a law that would regulate operations of adult bookstores, strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses.

"I encourage people to come and ask questions,'' Kenton County Commissioner Barb Black said of the April 20 meeting. Black said the proposed licensing regulations have been "a long time coming,'' and she complimented lawyers and local government officials for their efforts.

The new law also would regulate escort services in the two counties, Edmondson said. Under the proposed law, an escort service would have to be based in either Kenton or Campbell counties, and its employees and managers would have to be licensed.

"Covington has got a substantial problem with escort services,'' Edmondson said. "They're all over the place, and they're advertising on telephone poles and in news rags. There's no particular location that you can regulate.''

Soon after the licensing regulations are approved, the consultants will identify potential adult business zones in Kenton and Campbell counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled communities must provide zones where sexually oriented businesses can locate, no matter how undesirable local residents and business owners may find them. Supporters of local regulations hope that existing sexually oriented business zones in nine cities in Kenton and Campbell counties will be enough to meet U.S. Supreme Court requirements and that new ones won't be needed.

Boone County officials opted not to join in the regional regulation of adult businesses. Boone Judge-executive Gary Moore said that was largely at the recommendation of County Administrator Jim Parsons, who oversaw the cleanup of Newport's sex businesses while serving as city solicitor and city manager.

"Jim feels that a more effective way to deal with this is through existing zoning laws. ... We feel that approach is better than creating (a sexually oriented business) zone,'' Moore said. Unlike Kenton and Campbell counties, Boone County doesn't have the blighted areas or industrial areas that cities in the other two Northern Kentucky counties have set aside for adult businesses, he said.

Campbell County Fiscal Court plans to vote on the proposed licensing regulations as soon as Verst gets a final version of the proposed licensing ordinance to send to Campbell County cities for review, he said.

"It seems like every time we turn around, there's another appellate court decision that sheds a little more light on this issue,'' Verst said.

Edmondson said studies have shown that businesses near adult establishments suffer because "nobody wants to patronize them.'' Also, legitimate businesses don't want to locate in a community with a flourishing adult business trade, he said.


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