Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Risque business seen as negative

Lawmakers target strip joints, escorts

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MITCHELL - Bars offering adult entertainment not only serve as hangouts for drug dealers and prostitutes, they also hurt nearby property values, police and national zoning experts told the Kenton County Fiscal Court Tuesday.

Annual licensing fees: $3,000 for adult businesses and service-oriented escort bureaus; managers and employees would pay $155 a year.

Penalty: First-time offenders of the Class B misdemeanor would pay a fine of up to $250 and/or serve six months in jail, upon conviction. A second violation within two years carries a $500 fine and/or a year in jail.

What's next: If licensing regulations are approved, as expected, consultants will identify potential adult business zones in Campbell and Kenton counties.

"You can't get a Maisonette to come next door to The Pad,'' Kenton County Police Chief Bill Dorsey said. "They're not going to do that.''

Calling it "an ordinance that's long been needed,'' Dorsey told county officials that the Kenton County Police Chiefs Association supports regional licensing for sexually oriented businesses such as adult dancing establishments and bars. Without proper controls, he said, the adult entertainment industry will continue to serve as a magnet for criminal activity and a drain on Northern Kentucky tax dollars.

"These are not revenue-producers,'' Dorsey said, describing businesses that dodge payroll taxes and triggered 469 police calls during a recent 25-month period in Covington. "These are revenue stealers.''

Kenton County Fiscal Court is expected to vote on the proposed legislation in mid-May. Campbell County officials also hope to consider the ordinance next month, after city leaders in that county review the final draft.

The law that's been more than a year in the making is being developed with the help of Duncan Associates, an Austin, Texas, firm that acts as a national consultant in zoning issues. As part of its study, Duncan Associates visited nine adult bars and two adult retail establishments in Northern Kentucky and studied how such businesses affected criminal activity and property values in cities across the United States.

While Duncan Associates did not study the negative effects of sexually oriented businesses in Northern Kentucky, anecdotal evidence from police agencies in Kenton and Campbell counties supports other communities' findings, said Eric Damian Kelly, vice president of Duncan Associates.

The proposed sexually oriented business law specifies operating conditions and licensing fees for businesses that provide live, sexually oriented entertainment in Kenton and Campbell counties. It also would regulate Northern Kentucky's growing escort services industry for the first time.

Critics say escort services are difficult to monitor because they often operate out of private homes or motels. Under the law, an escort service would have to have an office in Kenton or Campbell and its employees and managers would have to be licensed.

"I'm convinced most escort services are fronts for prostitution,'' Kelly said. While they list their phone numbers in local newspaper ads, "the phone may be ringing in Columbus,'' he said.

The law would restrict conversations between dancers and patrons of adult nightclubs. In some clubs, "conversations'' take place in dimly lit booths and involve full-body contact, Kelly said. The sexually oriented business law would prohibit dancers from leaving the stage to mingle with the audience.

Kenton County Commissioner Barb Black, who could not attend Tuesday's meeting because of a family obligation, told in a letter how small business owners and police have expressed concerns about sex businesses' effects on property values and crime.


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