Federal Judge Find Va. County Wrongfully Targeted Strip Clubs

Slav Kandyba
MARTINSBURG, Va. — A Virginia strip club owner prevailed in federal court over a county ordinance that prohibited adult businesses from setting up shop, according to report.

According to an article in the Martinsburg Journal-News, Troy Erickson opened a strip club called Ridgeley Saloon in 2001. Three years later, Mineral County officials passed a law making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be in or on the premises of that type of establishment when it was open for business.

In 2004, Erickson was ordered to shut down after undercover sheriff’s deputies accompanied two 20-year-olds into his club. Erickson subsequently took the county to federal court, where he claimed his constitutional rights were violated by the county's action.

In August, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey sided with Erickson, writing in his opinion that the county overstepped its authority.

"Nude dancing is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment," Bailey wrote, according to the report, conceding that it may be considered to fall "only within the outer ambit of free speech protection."

Bailey also reaffirmed that the First Amendment "protects the rights of persons over the age of 17 to view non-obscene, sexually explicit material."

The judge also agreed that Erickson's due process rights — guaranteed by the 14th Amendment — were infringed, because county officials “just shut us down without an appeal process," Erickson said in the report.

Erickson argued the county officials unfairly targeted strip clubs with their actions, and "basically were saying we're not going to let you do what you do because we don't like you. Although at the same time, they didn't make the stores take the porn off their shelves, so we were very much of a target.”

Erickson has since reopened the Ridgeley Saloon as Legz Gold — after it was closed for 18 months — and last week held a conference call to discuss how much he would be awarded in damages.