Ohio Strip Clubs Take No-Touch Law to Court

Tod Hunter
CLEVELAND — Attorneys for Ohio strip clubs tried to persuade a federal judge to overturn a new law banning dancers from touching patrons or each other, arguing that there is no connection between adult clubs and any increase in crime.

The law also prohibits nude dancing in strip clubs after midnight and mandates that adult bookstores and theaters close between midnight and 6 a.m. Adult business owners, who say the law is hurting business, sued after it took effect this fall.

"My club is one of six on a 2-mile stretch in Dayton, [Ohio]," Flamingo Showclub manager Tim Case told XBIZ. "When they pushed the law through, it caused problems for us because girls weren't allowed to touch customers while they were nude or semi-nude. We're all suffering. Revenues are down one-third. Fewer people [are] showing up and spending less money when they get here. Dancers are trying to find regular jobs because they can't pay their bills. My liquor orders are down. It's hit us all across the board.

"I'm getting girls coming in from other clubs thinking the pastures are greener at my club and of course it's not. It's been bad for all of us."

Attorney Scott D. Bergthold, representing the state of Ohio, argued before U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. that adult clubs with nude dancers lead to prostitution and other crimes and may cause declining property values.

Attorney J. Michael Murray, representing the clubs challenging the law, chose not to give an opening statement, saying his case was detailed in written arguments filed with the court.

The judge set aside two days for testimony on the challenge that claims the new law is vague and an unconstitutional violation of free speech and expression.

Friday was dominated by a single witness, Daniel Linz, a communications and law-and-society professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and legal tangling as Murray and Bergthold debated whether adult-oriented businesses lead to problems, including sex-related crimes.

Linz, an expert witness testifying on behalf of the adult clubs, said that dozens of studies across the country that have concluded that restrictions on adult entertainment can prevent an increase in crime were unscientific.

Linz also said that various studies on attempts to limit crime by restricting adult-entertainment districts did not compare those areas with other neighborhoods and sometimes the results reflected increased police patrols around adult-entertainment businesses.

Under cross-examination, Bergthold tried to elicit testimony from Linz that seeing prostitution in an adult club amounted to evidence of a negative impact. Linz said it was up to police to determine what constitutes prostitution.

The Ohio law, which was promoted by Cincinnati-based antiporn group Citizens for Community Values, was adopted by the state legislature in May and became law without the signature of Gov. Ted Strickland