After Abduction, Mo. County Legislators Weigh Adult-Business Regulations

Tod Hunter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After the victimization of an underage girl at an adult entertainment business in unincorporated Jackson County, the county is considering an ordinance to regulate adult businesses.

"We're the only jurisdiction that has failed to regulate this industry," Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders told county legislators Monday, when he submitted the proposed ordinance for review and public hearings.

In November, a Wyandotte County, Kan., man pleaded guilty in federal court in November to transporting a girl across state lines to the Erotic City adult store, in an area between Independence and Kansas City, Mo., to have sex with her in video booths and with men in an "orgy room."

Erotic City, which offers adult entertainment including erotic literature, video booths and nude female dancers, was never charged with any crime.

The ordinance would require adult entertainment establishments to obtain a license. A manager must be on duty at all times, with the name posted, to prevent entry of minors and any sexual activity or narcotics on site. Employees, who must also be licensed, cannot have sex-related convictions or narcotics convictions.

The proposed ordinance would regulate viewing booths, prohibiting solid doors with locks and openings or holes between booths. Adult businesses would be required to be inspected by both the Public Health Department and Public Works.

The ordinance is modeled on one passed in 1998 in Kansas City. Eight similar ordinances from other jurisdictions were also consulted.

The goals of the proposed ordinance, according to Sanders, are to prevent exploitation of minors, minimize risk of sexually transmitted diseases and minimize other criminal behavior at adult entertainment establishments outside of city limits.

Legislator Henry Rizzo said the ordinance could lead to "extensive litigation."

"Are we prepared?" he asked Sanders, about the county's ability to pay for possible lawsuits.

Dr. Paula S. Livingston, director of the Jackson County Health Department, said she visited two adult entertainment sites: Erotic City and an unnamed business in Kansas City.

She reported the doors at Erotic City were solid, with holes in the walls, which she said facilitates sexual contact between anonymous people. The doors at the Kansas City facility were half-doors, which permitted observation.

The Legislature passed an adult entertainment ordinance in the early 1990s, but a federal court later ruled it was unconstitutional. According to Sanders, the law was voided because it denied due process of law.

Sanders said he was confident the new ordinance "will pass constitutional muster" because it ensures due process of law as well as protects First Amendment rights.

A second public hearing on the new ordinance will be held Jan. 22.