Protests Over New Strip Club Law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Old enough to vote in Missouri still isn’t old enough to enter a strip club, thanks to a new law scheduled to take effect Aug. 28. Once the law goes into effect, patrons of strip clubs or any other adult-themed business in the state will have to be at least 21 years old.

The new law also prohibits full nudity in the clubs, as well as “erotic” dancing, and requires a 10-foot buffer between patrons and performers.

Now lawyers for the plaintiffs, who include the Missouri Association of Club Executives (MACE), Scope Pictures, and adult video retailers, have begun arguments that the law is unconstitutional, saying that once a person reaches 18, their right to expression is clearly denied if they can’t express themselves in a Missouri strip club.

“The free speech violation is clear,” MACE attorney Thomas Rynard told XBiz.

However, the state’s Attorney General, Jay Nixon, defends the law, saying previous court cases have given the state the right to regulate the industry. His office also has argued that the law was designed to deal with “adverse secondary effects,” a legal term referring to unwanted side-effects lawyers often link to adult businesses, such as prostitution or drunk driving offenses.

But Rynard counters that the law is far too broad, and would effectively make strip clubs illegal if it goes into effect. Aside from the First Amendment issues relating to the case, Rynard told XBiz the law was initially “sneaked” onto the books.

“This was a case of classic log rolling,” said Rynard. “The bill was originally stopped in the House and then tacked onto another bill that was sure to go through.”

In cases where such accusations are made, the Missouri Supreme Court tends to defer to the legislature, although Rynard said exceptions have been made in situations where different elements of a bill don’t logically belong together.

“The bill is way too broad,” he added.

Rynard has asked for an injunction and hopes to hear back from the Missouri court before the weekend.