New Ohio Bill Would Set Adult Bookstore Curfew

Tod Hunter
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would force adult bookstores and other adult businesses to close at midnight. The bill passed by a 24-8 vote.

The bill would require adult book and video stores to close between midnight and 6 a.m. A violator could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

1st Amendment lawyer Lawrence Walters, of Weston, Garrou, DeWitt and Walters of Orlando, Fla., told XBIZ that states are now taking more of an interest in adult entertainment regulation, a responsibility that used to be taken by local governments.

"These laws are passed under the theory that adult businesses create some sort of so-called 'adverse secondary effects' like decreased property values, or increases in crime, prostitution, lewdness, traffic problems, garbage around the area," Walters said.

"It would be illegal if the government passed a law based on the substance of the entertainment provided by these businesses. That would be a primary effect," he added.

The "Community Defense Act" was presented through Ohio's initiated-statute petition process. Citizens for Community Values, a conservative, Cincinnati-based group, led the petition drive.

The next step for the bill is a vote in the Ohio House of Representatives, which is expected to happen before a four-month deadline expires on May 2. Backers of the bill have said they would take the measure directly to voters if lawmakers do not schedule a vote.

CCV spokesman Bruce Sheets said the organization is not trying to put adult establishments out of business, but courts have recognized the right of government to regulate them because of the potential for such social ills as prostitution, drug use and blighted properties.

"They do have a right to exist, but they can be regulated more stringently than any other enterprise," Sheets said.