MANATEE -- After years of court hearings and multiple drafts, the county’s ordinance governing sexually oriented businesses will stand now that the opportunity for a final legal challenge -- to the U.S. Supreme Court -- has passed its deadline.
Any such challenge to the county’s regulations had to be filed by Tuesday. And James A. Minix, chief deputy county attorney, said that didn’t happen.
So now, Minix said, it’s time to get businesses like the Peek-A-Boo lounge, which has long resisted county regulation, to get their licenses to run a sexually oriented business. Only about 13 percent of the county’s sexually oriented businesses, including strip clubs, cabarets, novelty shops and book stores, are in compliance with the county’s regulations.
Manatee’s various attempts to regulate strip clubs and other similar businesses began in 1999 when it adopted a nudity ordinance. That was challenged in federal courts by Peek-A-Boo lounge based on First Amendment rights.
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In 2000, the county came back with an adult entertainment code amendment now dubbed “Peek-A-Boo I,” which also ended up in court. The county won the first challenge, but on appeal had to go back and justify the need for such a code.
The county was able to meet those requirements in the latest version of the code and won the right in the federal courts to implement the code, despite a challenge from Peek-A-Boo.
Minix said the new ordinance -- Sexually Oriented Business Code 05-21 -- is a model now used all over the country.
In designing the ordinance, the county showed that the reason for the measure was to protect the health, safety and welfare of Manatee County residents without trying to suppress the businesses’ rights to free speech or free expression.
The county chronicled adverse impacts to areas surrounding sexually oriented businesses, including panhandling, prostitution, loitering, minors exposed to harmful materials, sale and use of controlled substances and crime.
“It is undeniable that the County has made a substantial showing relying on as thorough a record as we have seen in these cases,” the federal court of appeals stated.
The ordinance establishes licensing requirements, inspections, fees, penalties and enforcement. It also spells out rules on alcohol consumption and prohibits nudity and physical contact.
The county attorney’s office wants the new ordinance to replace the adult entertainment section of the county’s land development code. Those changes include that sexually oriented businesses must be located away from schools, churches, day-care centers, public recreation facilities and that they cannot be located within 1,000 feet of another sexually oriented business.
The county is negotiating with several strip clubs to get them to comply with the licensing requirements. Those clubs include Pandora’s Box, Davinci’s and the Peek-a-Boo Lounge. Businesses that are licensed include Naughty by Night, Nita’s Adult Shop, XTC Adult Supercenter, Adult Fun Shop and C&J’s Adult Bookstore. Since the ordinance was adopted, the county’s code enforcement department has identified several businesses where workers may be breaking the law. In that time the sheriff’s office has raided several businesses. First Class Relaxation, Sheer Fantasy and VIP Relaxation have since closed.