Anti-Strip Club Law Violated Constitution, Judge Says

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Just days before it was slated to go into effect, a Missouri law that would have effectively shut down strip clubs in the state has been struck down on the grounds that it violates the Missouri Constitution, a judge ruled Friday.

Had the law been enacted, patrons of strip clubs – or any other adult-themed business in the state – would have to have been at least 21 years of age. The law also aimed to bar full nudity in the clubs, as well as “erotic” dancing, and required a 10-foot buffer between patrons and performers.

Interestingly, the law was not struck down based on its content, but on how it was enacted.

“The way this law was put through is what we were primarily fighting,” attorney Thomas Rynard, an attorney representing the adult industry, told XBiz. “This wasn’t so much an issue of free speech as it was of classic logrolling.”

Rynard, one of several attorneys representing the Missouri Association of Club Executives (MACE), Scope Pictures and adult video retailers in the case, had argued that the law was inappropriately added to another bill aimed at strengthening Missouri’s drunk driving laws. This, he argued, violated the Missouri Constitution, which requires legislation to deal with only one subject at a time.

Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan agreed, saying legislation limits existed in Missouri to prevent “multiple-issue hodgepodge.”

Callahan also ruled the age requirement in the bill was unconstitutional, writing in his opinion that states could not regulate adult entertainment or free speech to persons 21 or older.

“Nude dancing is a constitutionally protected activity,” he wrote.

Republican Sen. Matt Bartle, who added the strip club law to the books the day before the General Assembly closed last session, would not comment on the ruling. However, Bartle and the adult entertainment industry in Missouri aren’t strangers. Last year Bartle passed a bill that severely restricted the ability of adult business to advertise on the highway, a law that also was challenged in court but successfully passed into law.

Bartle has continued to put pressure on the industry this year as well, with a proposed bill requiring a $5 admission fee and a 20 percent gross receipts tax on porn shops and strip clubs. He also wants all adult business to close by 10 p.m.

When discussing the bill earlier this year, Bartle told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he was the kind of politician who “comes in every day hunting big game.”

“Looks like this one got away,” an employee at Crazy Horse Gentlemen’s Club in Springfield, Mo., told XBiz upon hearing Bartle’s description of himself.

The employee, who wished to remain anonymous until he’s “sure Bartle’s bill has been killed,” said The Crazy Horse would have been severely hurt had the law passed.

“This bill would kill clubs in Missouri,” he said.