Missouri Moves on Adult Entertainment

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Offering a bit of populist drama to culminate the legislative session, the Missouri Legislature has passed a measure that could dramatically impact adult businesses within the state — and perhaps beyond.

If Missouri lawmakers have their way, folks in the "Show Me" State won't be seeing much of anything, as new measures would eliminate nudity from strip clubs, as well as impose other Draconian restrictions on adult entertainment businesses within the state.

SB 586 seeks to regulate "sexually oriented businesses," passing the House by a 118-28 vote and the Senate by a 27-4 vote.

Among the bill's provisions are the requirements that "no person shall establish a sexually oriented business within 1000 feet of a preexisting school, house of worship, state-licensed day care, public library, public park, residence, or other sexually oriented business."

Not only does this restriction drastically limit the number of locations where such an establishment may be located, it also prevents the forming of "Red Light Districts" where adult entertainment businesses may be located together.

The act also "prohibits a person from knowingly appearing nude in a sexually oriented business." While it is unclear how "sexually oriented" a business may be without having any nudity, a person appearing in a "semi-nude condition" may be OK, as long as that person is at least six feet away from on-lookers and elevated at least 18" on a stage.

Forget about late night customers as well, since adult businesses will not be able to operate between midnight and 6 a.m. — hampering the 24-hour adult trade conducted by many adult shops, especially those along the Interstate highway system.

Oh, and felons need not apply.

"And they're baited into thinking this is a cure-all," Rep. Curt Dougherty stated. "You put your head in the sand."

"You see a brick and mortar store. You throw rocks at it. Poof! It goes away and it's all much better now. The whole world becomes Technicolor," Dougherty said. "Well, it don't really work that way. This all goes to the Internet. It all goes under ground. It stops nothing."

While Dougherty may have intended to demonstrate that these small measures will not put an end to "porn," it may only serve to fuel local calls for Internet regulation — despite the problematic nature of such efforts, especially by local entities. Local laws are also encouraged in SB 586, which makes provisions for stricter ordinances at this level.

"There's been a lot of debate on this. It has been called divisive. It's definitely divisive. We saw the division. We saw the division in the debate. We saw the division in the vote," Rep. Ed Emery, the bill's sponsor, stated. "And I think Missouri has seen the division for what's ahead in the state. Mr. Speaker this bill is good for the future of Missouri."

Not all agree, however.

"If we had a vote by secret ballot, this bill would die," Rep. Stephen Webber said. "But everybody wants to be holier than thou."

Governor Jay Nixon now receives the bill for an expected approval.