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More Brick-and-Mortar Adult Businesses Facing Shots

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Jun 1, 2004 1:53 PM PDT    Text size: 
KEY WEST, Fla. – Across America, more local governments are pushing brick-and-mortar adult businesses off the block, pressured by organizations that want to reset “community standards.”

And in these “not-in-my-backyard” cases, governments are reining in the adult businesses.

Last month, Key West, Fla., city officials voted to cap the number of adult businesses at seven and limit them to one area of the island city's tourist district.

Sounds strange for a city such as Key West, which hosts the annual Fantasy Fest, with its parades, costume contests and extravagant balls, mainly adult oriented.

In Spokane, Wash., the story continues. A federal appeals court ruled last week that Spokane’s ordinances for adult businesses are constitutional, essentially kicking those establishments to mostly industrial and commercial areas, away from most housing areas and farmland.

And earlier this month, Missouri’s Legislature passed a bill that would ban billboards promoting adult businesses within one mile of the state’s highways. Lawmakers there have a compromise: The adult-oriented businesses could have just two signs – one showing just the name and hours, the other noting it is off-limits to minors.

Back in Florida, nudity is back on the Hillsborough County Commission agenda.

A group calling itself Citizens for Decency is pushing for a referendum to determine whether voters would support a new ordinance banning public nudity, including at strip clubs, in the county that includes Tampa, Fla., where there are nearly two dozen strip lounges.

Citizens for Decency was formed earlier this year when several ministers gathered to talk about public nudity and the community's reputation as Sin City.

The group says Hillsborough County has been hampered in regulating adult businesses, or prosecuting obscenity cases, mainly because of the number of them currently operating.

But with all these civic and legal battles, attorneys who defend First Amendment rights for the adult brick-and-mortar stores say that the decisions even out.

“In doing this work for over a decade, I’ve learned that for every bad decision against the industry [and] in favor of local government, there is another decision that comes out strongly in favor of the industry,” attorney Lawrence Walters told XBiz. “Case in point, the very same lawyer who lost the Spokane case won a case a few days later, where the judge tossed out an adult business ordinance [in the city of Shoreline, Wash., against a strip club named Sugar’s].

“So you can’t get too down about a bad decision, because a good one will always make up for it,” he said. “We call it legal Karma.”

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