County’s regulation of strip clubs upheld

MANATEE -- Manatee County’s regulation of adult entertainment establishments does not violate the constitutional rights of strip clubs, a federal appeals panel has ruled.

Bradenton’s Peek-a-Boo Lounge appealed a 2005 summary judgment by the U.S. District Court’s Middle District of Florida that upheld the county’s Sexually Oriented Business Code.

In court documents, Peek-a-Boo Lounge said the zoning and nudity provisions in the code violated the First Amendment.

But a ruling from a three-judge panel, written by U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, upheld the district court’s ruling.

It said the county’s presentation of six volumes of judicial opinions, crime reports, an affidavit from a local private investigator and public hearing transcripts proved that the code was necessary to combat the “negative second effects” of adult entertainment businesses. Those effects include increases in crime and illegal drug use, and decreases property values near such businesses.

“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 decision read.

County Attorney Tedd Williams informed commissioners of the court’s decision at the end of Tuesday’s regular meeting.

“They really praised the record we presented before this board in 2005,” Williams said.

On Sept. 12, 2005, Peek-a-Boo Lounge of Bradenton Inc. and the parent companies of Pandora’s Box and Paper Moon filed suit in federal court after the county passed an ordinance that restricted the hours of operation and prohibited the serving of alcoholic beverages at sexually oriented businesses.

Another ordinance included an across-the-board ban on appearing in a “state of nudity” in public and restricted “semi-nude” employees from coming within six feet of customers.

Attorneys for the three clubs tried to cast doubt on the studies linking increased crime to adult entertainment businesses. They collected testimony from several local experts, including a dance instructor and former club employee, to deny the negative secondary effects of the adult businesses.

The district court granted the county a summary judgment in 2009. All three companies appealed the decision, but the parent companies of Pandora’s Box and Paper Moon later dropped out of the litigation.

Peek-A-Boo Lounge first sued the county in 1987 over an adult entertainment code, but the two sides settled in 1989.

After the county altered the code in 1998, Peek-A-Boo Lounge sued again, losing in district court but earning a partial victory in appeals court. That led the county to overhaul the adult entertainment code into what became the Sexually Oriented Business Code.