Ohio Adult Businesses Petition to Change Law

Tod Hunter
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Adult performers and companies are collecting signatures to overturn a new law that will restrict adult businesses in Ohio.

When the law goes into effect Sept. 4, it sets closing times for adult businesses and makes physical contact between club patrons and nude or semi-nude performers a misdemeanor. Business affected by the law include adult bookstores, adult video stores, adult cabarets, adult movie theaters, sexual device shops and sexual encounter centers.

Political action committee, Citizens for Community Standards, which has raised more than $122,000, is leading the petition drive. The PAC also has received donations from California-based adult studios and distributors.

“Because Ohio is such a test-market state, people are afraid that if this law survives in Ohio, then other states will be next,” said Sandy Theis, a consultant for the effort.

The petition effort must file petitions with at least 241,366 valid signatures of registered voters before the law's effective date. On Aug. 6, the count stood at 200,234. To ensure 241,366 valid signatures, petitioners need to get more than the required number.

"We're sending girls out into downtown to get signatures and putting petitions in the club entries," Cleveland Hustler Club manager Angela told XBIZ. "Some of the girls went to Columbus as members of Dancers for Democracy."

The original bill was started through a petition effort by Citizens for Community Values, a conservative, Cincinnati-based organization that has opposed adult material for more than 20 years and was behind the successful 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Ohio.

Not everyone in the adult entertainment industry is optimistic.

"I think if we do get enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot, we will lose," Tim Case Walker, manager of the Flamingo Show Club in Dayton, Ohio, told XBIZ. "I don't think we have any chance of getting that passed. There's no way you're going to convince the conservative voters of the state of Ohio to vote for an issue that will allow strippers, when nude, to touch customers and allow clubs to stay open from midnight to 6 a.m. I think they don't have a chance."

The new law increases the penalties under the “no-touch rule,” making it a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine for nude and semi-nude performers and their audience to come into direct contact with one another. If the touch involves a “specified anatomical area,” defined as the genitals, pubic region, or a portion of the female breast, the charge would be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

For more information, visit the Citizens for Community Standards website.