The XBIZ Weekly Retail Round-Up

Tod Hunter

Would-be Nightclub Owner Sues County for $5 Million

LOCKEFORD, Calif. — A man who plans to open a nightclub here has filed a $5 million federal lawsuit against San Joaquin County, claiming that county officials violated his free speech rights by creating excessive obstacles to prevent him from opening his nightclub.

Timothy Krupp has a business license to open On the Beach, but the county hasn't granted a use permit to allow live entertainment, including dancing by professionals or customers, according to Kruppe's attorney. Kruppe described the type of activity as "just regular dancing."

According to the lawsuit filed Feb. 29 in U.S. District Court, the county unlawfully determines whether a business is valid based on whether they like the applicant or not, the lawyer said.

"If you have a wedding, if you have a bar mitzvah, if you have a church with a choir, do they require a use permit?" he asked. "It's goofy that it's easier to have adult entertainment than someone who sings 'Danny Boy' on St. Patrick's Day."

Kruppe also contends that the $6,328 fee for the use permit application is "unconstitutionally excessive" because it bears no relationship to the county's actual costs.

"The county inexplicably charges the same amount to determine if people can listen to live music and dance within an existing bar as they charge to review development of a shopping mall," according to the lawsuit.

Kruppe also alleges in his complaint that a code enforcement officer issued a stop-work notice on Jan. 17 after Kruppe began constructing a 22-inch-high platform for the bar's dancers to use — even though the county doesn't demand a permit for platforms less than 30 feet high.

And on Jan. 22, Kruppe was notified by county officials that a use permit would be needed before any kind of entertainment could take place at the bar, according to the lawsuit.

Several years go, Kruppe claimed his First Amendment rights were violated by the city of Lodi when he owned two adult businesses there. City officials required Kruppe and his employees to undergo fingerprinting and background checks. Six of Kruppe's employees were cited in February 2002 for not complying. Kruppe accepted a $105,000 settlement with the city in 2003.

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Mendon Proposes Adult Entertainment Bylaw

MENDON, Mass. — Mendon residents will likely vote on an adult entertainment bylaw at this year's annual Town Meeting, after the controversy over a recent permit application for adult entertainment at Doc's Sports Bar in nearby Milford.

Mendon does not currently have an adult entertainment bylaw, which means establishments are allowed anywhere in the town's commercial zones. The proposed bylaw maps out an overlay district in which adult entertainment establishments could be located.

There are no adult entertainment establishments in town, but a local sports bar occasionally has male revue shows.

Regulations include a buffer requirement and restrictions on signs. An early version of the plan would stipulate that within the zone, an adult entertainment establishment couldn't be within 700 feet of a child care facility, park or playground.

Mendon selectmen will review the bylaw before signing the annual Town Meeting warrant Monday.

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Hastings Considers Adult Business Zoning Ordinance

HASTINGS, Minn. — Although there are no strip clubs or sex shops in Hastings and none have been proposed, a city ordinance that would permit adult businesses to open in a high-traffic area may be amended to require them to locate to a less visible area.

"We're very sensitive to where the zoning would be located," Hastings Mayor Paul Hicks said. "We certainly hope that we never have to deal with this."

The city planning commission this month proposed zoning the Hastings Business and Industrial Park for adult businesses, instead of a now-legal main city thoroughfare with a Wal-Mart, Target, Cub Foods and a strip mall drawing heavy traffic.

However, after businesses and residents in and near the industrial park complained, the city is shelving the proposed zoning changes and considering renewing a 2006 moratorium that banned all adult-use businesses.

The city will hold a hearing on renewing the moratorium on April 7.

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Clark County Trying to Buy Buildings with Adult Clubs

LAS VEGAS — Commercial Center, located on Sahara Avenue near Maryland Parkway, has businesses catering to roller-hockey jocks and transvestites, Korean grocery shoppers and swingers, churchgoers and pool hall junkies and those in need of a wig or a bong.

The shopping plaza has also attracted another potential client — Clark County. The county’s redevelopment agency wants to buy several properties in the center, all of which house adult social clubs: Show & Tell, where a banner over the door features three shirtless men and two women in their underwear; the Green Door, 18,000 square feet of self-described “Pure Fantasy” advertising a VIP floor, three juice bars, a steam room and a dungeon; and Hawks Gym, whose owner told reporters the gym specializes in “the same thing as the Green Door, but for gay men.”

The attempted purchase is getting a mixed reception from Commercial Center’s 200-plus tenants. Some would love to see the clubs gone, but others feed off the clubs’ clientele. Many aren’t sure what to think, but are anxious about what the future holds.

Commissioners quietly gave the county redevelopment agency permission three months ago to spend up to $7.6 million to appraise the three properties, acquire them, relocate the businesses and demolish the buildings. Commissioners approved the action without comment as part of their consent agenda, a list of about 100 items passed in a single vote.

At the Commercial Center Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, Executive Director Candice Nichols worries that if the clubs go, so will a lot of the foot traffic that makes the community center’s visitors feel safe.

“It’s unsettling,” she said. “I think redevelopment is good in some sense, but you do have businesses here that are thriving.”

On the other side of the plaza, Nick Carpineta mans the counter at the 420 Smoke Shop, which sells tobacco, hookahs and condoms. He said the clubs’ clients frequent his shop.

“They are a big part of the center,” he said.

Others, though, say the clubs’ seedy reputation is not good for their businesses.

County officials point out that the county has targeted Commercial Center and nearby areas for redevelopment for years.

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Houston Topless Clubs May Have to Cover Up

HOUSTON — On March 17, Houston strip club owners lost an 11-year fight to overturn a city ordinance when the country's highest court refused to hear their case. The regulation, passed in 1997, bans topless dancing clubs and other adult businesses within 1,500 feet of daycare centers, schools and churches, double the previous distance. The idea is to force the clubs to move or to shut down entirely.

Eric Langan, the chief executive officer of Houston-based Rick's Cabaret International, has another possible solution.

"The City of Houston will win the battle and lose the war because they won't be able to regulate us once we move to latex pasties," Langan said. "Any ice house can now compete with us just by throwing a girl on the bar in a bikini or pasties without being subject to any additional regulation. I think we're going to see a lot more clubs putting dancers on stage."

The ordinance targeted 126 Houston businesses, including adult bookstores and "modeling studios," where scantily clad women pose for customers. Massage parlors were exempted.

Langan estimated the ordinance will affect 38 topless clubs employing about 6,000 people.

City investigators have been working undercover at topless clubs in the expectation that the ordinance would stand up. Raids and shutdowns may be next. Officials have placed a sign on at least one Houston club, telling patrons the club is in violation of a signage ordinance.

Unlike most city ordinances restricting adult entertainment, Houston's measure doesn't have a grandfather clause that allows existing businesses to remain. The businesses also must pay for their relocation.

Aside from the adult entertainment regulation, Houston is the only major U.S. city with no zoning laws.

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