Wichita Primed to Shut Down City’s Adult Shops?

Q Boyer
WICHITA — Anti-adult entertainment groups in Wichita are celebrating the enforcement of a zoning ordinance that went into effect on Jan. 1, which they believe will allow local officials to shut down the city’s remaining adult businesses — but critics of the ordinance say it is unconstitutional, and have vowed to fight it in court.

The ordinance, which is codified at VII-J.2.c of the Wichita/Sedgwick County Unified Zoning Code, restricts adult businesses to areas that are more than 500 feet from any church, school, public park, licensed day care center, residential zoning district boundary, “Old Town” district boundary, or any other adult entertainment establishment.

The ordinance was passed in 2005, but the law provided a two-year grace period for existing adult businesses to comply. That two-year period expired December 31, and now the city is preparing to enforce the ordinance.

According to a statement issued on December 30 by Dale Goter, the government relations manager for Wichita, the ordinance “requires the city to test the constitutional validity of the ordinance in court before it seeks to enforce it against any of the remaining, pre-existing businesses.”

“It is likely there will be three such businesses,” Goter said. “These businesses will not be sued directly. There are available court procedures that will allow the city to seek a court determination without placing the burden of defense on those businesses. However, those remaining businesses will have an opportunity to appear in court if they so choose to address the validity of the ordinance.”

Circle Cinema, one of the three pre-existing adult businesses referred to in Goter’s statement, is prepared to “fight this as far as we have to,” according to their attorney, Chris O’Hara.

“They shouldn’t be forced to move, they’ve been in the community for 30 years,” O’Hara recently told reporters.

O’Hara was unavailable to comment at press time, but adult industry attorney Rob Apgood told XBIZ that the anti-adult activists who are hailing the ordinance as the end of adult shops in Wichita may well be “celebrating an empty victory.”

“If their intent was to stamp out adult businesses, and the city really hasn’t left anywhere for adult businesses to set up shop, then the ordinance will not pass judicial scrutiny,” Apgood said. “If the effect of the ordinance is a ban, then it is unconstitutional. They can’t hide behind the language of their ordinances and say ‘look, the word ‘ban’ isn’t in there.’ The court will see right through it — that dog won’t hunt.”