Adult Store Sues County Over Ordinance

Tod Hunter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Owners of a controversial adult entertainment center have filed a federal lawsuit to overturn a county ordinance passed in January that places restrictions on adult entertainment venues.

The lawsuit filed by Erotic City — located in Blue Summit, an unincorporated community between Kansas City and Independence — says Jackson County’s ordinance is vague, overly broad and unconstitutional.

“A portion of Erotic City’s stock-in-trade consists of sexually explicit material that is presumptively protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” states the lawsuit, filed by Independence lawyer Sharlie Pender.

The suit asks that the ordinance be struck down and that Erotic City be reimbursed for legal fees, lost profits, loss of reputation and other damages. The court also is asked to issue a permanent injunction to keep the county from enforcing the new law.

County Executive Mike Sanders, a former county prosecutor who proposed the ordinance, said he was not surprised at the lawsuit but expects the ordinance will be upheld.

“We think what we did was incredibly reasonable, that it walks that fine line between protecting freedom of expression and protecting the public,” Sanders said.

The ordinance bans locked doors on video booths as well as any sex or sex solicitation in the booths. It outlaws physical contact between dancers and customers and requires employees to be licensed and to undergo criminal background checks.

Erotic City shut down its 26 video booths and discontinued nude dancing in its non-alcoholic bar after the ordinance passed. The shop continues to sell adult films, magazines and novelties.

Although the ordinance affects any business in unincorporated Jackson County, it was instigated by incidents at Erotic City. A man pleaded guilty in federal court late last year on charges of having sex with a 14-year-old girl at Erotic City and elsewhere.

The county sheriff’s office has said that Erotic City generated 115 calls to law enforcement since 2004 for offenses including assaults, car thefts and property damage by customers or others at Erotic City or in the immediate area. Erotic City was not charged with any offenses.