The XBIZ Weekly Retail Round-Up

Tod Hunter

Planning Commission Votes to Regulate Strip Clubs

DESTIN, Fla. — The Local Planning Agency voted unanimously to recommend Destin City Council pass an ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses, despite attorney Cary Wiggins' arguments that one part of the ordinance — no alcohol can be bought, used or consumed on such business premises — was unnecessary.

Wiggins attended the meeting as the attorney for Terry Stephenson, who in November applied for a business license to turn a local pool hall into a nude dancing venue. After the city rejected the application, Stephenson sued to have the decision overturned.

Wiggins told the agency that strip clubs make better neighbors than bars because "the standard of security is so high: bouncers, floor managers, everyone's trained. All those kind of things you won't find at your typical honky-tonk bar."

The ordinance requires that the owner and all employees at sexually oriented businesses take out a license with the city. If they have a criminal record, the license will be turned down. Nudity is prohibited and seminudity is only allowed if the employees are on a stage, six feet away from the customers. Dancers cannot touch the customers. No alcohol is permitted on the premises, and the business must close after 2 a.m.

"It's a fairly tight ordinance, it does have some defects," Wiggins said. "There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Everything I've heard is that adult clubs are all bad and you should do all you can to restrict them. That's not the case."

Wiggins said entertainment in Destin should no more be restricted to family-friendly fare than a bookstore should be required to sell nothing but children's books.

The LPA's decision is not legally binding on the City Council. The ordinance is expected to come before the council in January.

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City Council Adopts Adult Business Ordinances

MONROE, Iowa — The City Council has closed loopholes in the city’s charter that have allowed sexually oriented businesses to remain unregulated.

At its regular meeting, the City Council voted 5-0 to adopt two ordinances that define sexually oriented businesses and regulates their locations as well as an ordinance that would limit their operating hours.

Both ordinances go into effect immediately.

Questions about the regulation of sexually-oriented businesses were raised in September when one opened near Monroe’s Historic Garden District residential neighborhood.

“We can’t blanket deny a business to operate,” said city attorney Nanci Summersgill. “But this will keep these types of businesses away from residential areas, schools and churches.”

The city did not have an ordinance defining and regulating sexually oriented businesses.

Under the new sexually oriented business ordinance, existing establishments are grandfathered in for two years and will be allowed to remain open. But after the two years end, their licenses could be pulled if they are out of compliance with the regulations, which both would be because of their locations.

Both are located in a B-3R general business/residential area, and one of them also is within 1,500 feet of a church and a day care, which is prohibited under the ordinances.

Under the new zoning ordinance, a sexually oriented business could be an adult retail store, theater, escort service, nude model studio, or a bar or restaurant involved in adult entertainment. Sexually oriented businesses would have to locate within a B-3 general business district and cannot be within 1,500 feet of schools, parks, day cares, churches, synagogues or a nonprofit educational museum.

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Adult Store Loses in Court

MIDVALE, Utah — Doctor John's Lingerie and Novelty Boutique has been found in violation of a longstanding injunction regarding adult inventory, with the court awarding court and attorney's fees to Midvale. The store, part of an Iowa-based chain, has pledged to continue fighting.

The store was raided by police with a search warrant in late February. Officers were there to take possession of "sexually oriented" items such as DVDs and adult toys. Armed with cameras and careful legal instructions, police took only a few products — but documented others and told store management to stop selling "adult" products.

The roots of the raid go back to litigation that was argued before the Utah Supreme Court in 2001. Doctor John's lost that case and was ordered to either apply for a sexually oriented business license in Midvale, or operate within the confines of its general business license.

The store complied until 2007, when it sexual devices and what the city called "pornographic" entered the store's inventory, prompting the search and seizure.

"We're trying to find the line," Doctor John's attorney, Andrew McCullough, told the judge during a court hearing. "All that we're desperately asking you to do is define the line."

Third District Judge Denise Lindbergh emphatically declined to define such a line, saying it wasn't her job. She also rejected McCullough's contention that he was trying to find it, in light of evidence that the shop's management had never approached the city with that question.

"You need to give the city the opportunity to take action or clarify its position and then to follow an orderly process of appeal if that is not a decision that is to the liking of Doctor John's," she said, ruling from the bench. "It's not my role to determine what those requirements are but rather to review the city's interpretation of that ordinance."

Midvale attorney Craig Hall added that the city already defined the line in its ordinance that says sexually oriented products can't be among the primary purposes of a business that doesn't have a special license.

McCullough, a former Libertarian candidate for state attorney general, said Friday that the appeal for this case is all but written. He thinks he'll have more success in the appellate courts, he added, but didn't articulate the reasons for that belief.

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North Seattle Pancake House May Become Strip Club

SEATTLE — Investor Bob Davis plans to turn what is now Cyndy's House of Pancakes into an adult strip club. Davis previously sued the city of Seattle over its strip-club moratoriums in 2005, winning a $500,000 settlement. A similar suit in Bothell earned him $350,000 in July.

Cyndy's would be the first club that Davis would actually open — if the sale and building permit go through.

Davis said the appeal of the property was that it has a kitchen, and he wants food service in his club. It is also located near a busy intersection and has its own parking lot.

The city lifted 17 years of moratoriums on new strip clubs in June 2007, after a federal court ruled the bans violated the First Amendment. One club has opened in downtown Seattle and another is to open near baseball park Safeco Field, The Seattle Mariners are considering a lawsuit to block the plan, but the city has already rejected the Mariners' contention that Safeco Field is a public park, open space or community center — near which strip clubs are not allowed.

Cyndy's current owner has been at the restaurant for 36 years and said she hadn't been aware of Davis' plans for the place. But there were no other buyers, and Davis is offering cash.

"What they do with the property after they get it isn't up to me," the owner said.

The deal is expected to close in January. It will take two to four months to ensure the proposed strip club is at least 800 feet from any schools, community centers, child-care facilities or public parks and open space and 600 feet from another adult cabaret.

"People think these strip clubs are whorehouses, but they're dance clubs," Davis said. "I don't put up with pimps and that stuff. No drug dealers. We're talking a legitimate business here. It'll be a building with no windows and a guard at the door. It's not going to offend anybody."

A former airline pilot, Davis previously owned Giggles Comedy Club and the Urban Comedy Cafe.

"To me it's just a business," Davis said. "I don't personally go into those clubs, only for research purposes. I'm liberal to the point I think the men deserve some nice clubs in this town. I want to have a nice one with food service."

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