The Weekly Retail Report

Tod Hunter

City Debates Possible Strip Club

NORTH BAY VILLAGE, Fla. — A high-end strip club planned for North Bay Village has city officials upset. A company that plans to buy a high-profile Italian restaurant and replace it with a strip club filed suit in federal court in April maintaining that the city code — which forbids strip clubs — is unconstitututional.

The property is in the middle of town on the city's largest road.

"We literally have one street that's commercial, one street not even a mile long," said the city's interim attorney Joe Geller.

The company that filed the suit does not own the property but it is in negotiations with a contractor to buy it, according to city staff. Commissioners were surprised that the company was demanding the city change its code, given that it has not yet bought the property.

"Fight this tooth and nail," Mayor Oscar Alfonso ordered Geller.

North Bay Village Vice Mayor Reinaldo Trujillo said the social cost of allowing a strip club to open there is higher than the monetary cost of fighting it in court.

According to court documents, what first started as a case against the city code may turn into a zoning issue. The current city code, which was called into question, outlaws the establishment of an adult entertainment facility. The company's contention is that the 1964 city ordinance is outdated and outright unconstitutional: It prohibits the operation of "burlesque, girlesque, strip tease or exotic" clubs and it outlaws exotic or sexy dancing.

The company's attorney has argued that exotic dancing is a form of expression protected by the 1st Amendment, court documents show. City officials are considering the argument, as they plan to rewrite the ordinance in coming weeks. The rewritten code, city officials say, will prohibit any adult entertainment facilities from operating within 500 feet from schools, parks, religious institutions or residential communities.

The city is so small that the ordinance rules out nearly every property on the map.


City Passes Restrictions on Adult Businesses

MANCHESTER, Maine — Owners of adult-oriented businesses will have to comply with a stringent new ordinance before setting up shop in Manchester. Residents adopted the ordinance at a town meeting June 11. Not one person spoke up in favor of adult-oriented businesses.

The ordinance restricts the businesses in terms of location, layout and signage.

Members of the planning board said free speech protections prohibit them from banning such businesses outright.

The ordinance was crafted after a coffee shop featuring a topless wait staff opened in nearby Vassalboro.


Town Passes Adult Business Moratorium

EASTON, Md. — The Easton Town Council has passed a nine-month moratorium on adult businesses, in a step toward banning them entirely.

The council passed two ordinances, amending the town zoning ordinance to define and ban adult-oriented business and establishing the moratorium. Town Attorney Sharon Van Emburgh said more changes to zoning could follow, but the two measures are needed now to prevent loopholes.

The legislation was inspired by an inquiry into opening an adult bookstore on Dover Street. The moratorium is meant to give the council time to contemplate more permanent legislation. The measure allows adult material to be sold as long as it is less than 20 percent of the store's stock, floor space and revenue.


Adult Zoning Meeting Draws Crowd

MIDDLETON, Mass. — Hundreds of area residents piled into a Middleton school cafeteria Monday to show their opposition against two potential adult entertainment districts in town.

If Middleton does not create an adult entertainment zoning district, then an adult entertainment business like a strip club could potentially move in anywhere in Middleton. While Town Meeting will ultimately pick one of two locations for the district, the Planning Board was voting Monday to recommend one site to Town Meeting.

“I would suggest that you look at this a little bit more,” said Warren Pearce, a North Reading resident and chairman of the North Reading Planning Board. “Once you make this decision, it is going to be hard to get away from it.”

Many chided the Middleton Planning Board members — who were not responsible for picking the sites — for choosing sites in neighborhoods near a school and houses with small children. Others said that they should put the zones on the streets where the planning board members live.

Middleton officials have stated that the two sites were picked because an adult business would have a difficult time setting up a business in those zones, considering one has an adhesives plant operating on top of it.

Residents near the other site opposed that site for many of the same concerns.

“Obviously, we don’t want this in our backyard,” said one resident.

George Dow, a former Middleton planning board member, said that there are very few areas where the town could put the adult zone in order to discourage adult business proprietors from moving in.

Middleton Selectman Timothy Houten, who is on the committee that chose the sites, said he and others worked for a year trying to choose the best sites to place these adult zoning districts. He said the town hired an expert in constitutional law to choose the sites with the least likelihood of an adult business being able to permit a business.

Middleton residents will vote on the two proposed sites during Town Meeting on May 12.


Strip Club Owners Protest New Rules

DETROIT — Strip club owners and dancers protested new rule changes in downtown Detroit on June 17 as City Council discussed implementing the changes.

The new rules would require a six-foot distance between strippers and customers and ban alcohol consumption inside the clubs. Lap dancing would be outlawed, as well as customers and dancers mingling in VIP rooms. The rules would apply to the city's 31 topless bars.

The proposed changes follow a federal judge's 2007 court decision striking down Detroit's regulations on where strip clubs could open and ordering them to be rewritten.

Club owners said the rule changes would put them out of business.

The city is already facing lawsuits for refusing to transfer some club licenses. Council member Sheila Cockrel fears more litigation. “I’m not voting for any of these because it’s constitutionally protected behavior even if I think it’s disgusting,” Cockrel said.

The new rules would also keep new strip clubs 1,000 feet away from schools, churches or other strip clubs.

Strip club owners were reportedly happy after the council meeting because it appeared the council members think the new rules go too far — but this is just the first step in a long process.


Adult Store Gets 1-Year Reprieve

MOORHEAD, N.D. — An adult bookstore that challenged the legality of Moorhead’s ordinance governing adult businesses will be allowed to operate one more year in its current location as part of a settlement agreement.

The case involving the Huff & Puff tobacco store was sparked by an ordinance adopted by the city in January 2007 that restricted businesses that devote more than 20 percent of their floor space to sexually explicit materials to the city’s light and heavy industrial districts.

Also, they cannot be less than 1,000 feet from residential zones, protected places including schools, or businesses that have a liquor license.

According to court documents, Huff & Puff tobacco devotes 70 to 75 percent of its floor space to sexually explicit materials, including magazines, videos, rubber goods and novelties.

Huff & Puff owner Pao Xiong sued the city in U.S. District Court in 2008, claiming the city’s adult business ordinance was unconstitutional. The city asked the court to dismiss the suit.

In a recent order, the court agreed to dismiss some claims, but said it had insufficient information to rule on several issues, including whether adequate space existed elsewhere in the city for the business to relocate.

The court suggested the parties work out a settlement.

As part of an agreement between the city and Xiong, the city council recently modified the adult business ordinance expanding the hours adult stores may be open, and Huff & Puff can continue to operate at its present location for one year, after which it will have to comply with the ordinance and move its location if it wants to continue offering adult material.

As part of the settlement, which is still being finalized, the lawsuit will be dismissed.


Blackpool Topless Bar Closed for 2 Weeks

BLACKPOOL, England — A topless bar was closed for two weeks after it was discovered topless performers were visible from the street. Blackpool Council also demanded Chubby's Bar put measures in place to ensure adult entertainment is screened off from passersby.

The bar agreed to close for two weeks and a number of new conditions were added to the license, including installing a screen to the ground floor entrance "to ensure that any adult entertainment taking place within that area cannot be viewed from outside the premises"; all doors and windows be closed while adult entertainment such as topless pole dancing is taking place; and topless barmaids and waitresses cannot work before 6 p.m.

Blackpool Council's licensing chairman Coun Henry Mitchell said the action was part of the town's clean-up campaign.

"We are trying to attract families back to Blackpool so we cannot have a case where adult entertainment in a bar like this can be seen by passersby," Mitchell said. "Parents do not want children to see this kind of thing when they are walking down the Promenade. Children need to be protected."

But staff said the two-week closure is unfair. Tony McLaughlin and Jemma Redman, who have five children, said they would lose about $1,900 in wages because of the closure.

Redman, who works behind the bar, said: "Our complaint is against the council, not our boss. He just didn't think he would be closed down. It's not fair on us."

McLaughlin, who works as a doorman, said, "There are seven doormen and seven bar staff affected. The council is punishing innocent members of staff."