Friday, August 24, 2001

Cities still shun adult businesses

Despite boom, they're rarely welcome

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Business is booming at one of Monroe's newest stores. But while Tristate communities usually welcome successful new businesses, they try to keep out this type — a Hustler “erotic boutique.”

        “Superb,” is how Jimmy Flynt describes the first eight months of his store's operation in a city that tried unsuccessfully to block its construction and opening just off Interstate 75 at the Butler/Warren county line.

        Many Tristate communities have adult-business ordinances, and Mason, Waynesville and Covington are among those revising or adopting ordinances meant to deter or restrict such operations.

[photo] Jimmy Flynt says business is great at his store in Monroe, despite the city's efforts to keep him from opening.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        Scott Bergthold, president of Arizona-based Community Defense Counsel, says fast-growing cities across the nation must be ready to update zoning laws to comply with changing court rulings that affect adult businesses.

        “Cities that are on the ball are keeping up with their obligation to stay on top of the court cases as they come down, and to make any necessary modifications to their ordinances,” says Mr. Bergthold.

        Suburban city officials often oppose adult businesses because of the belief that they hurt family-friendly images and can lead to crime. But interpretations of obscenity laws shift.

        Mr. Bergthold's nonprofit group monitors court decisions across the country and advises municipalities on how to stay in compliance with the law. He has worked with cities including Monroe, Mason and Cincinnati.

        Mason, he says, is a good example of trying to stay current.

        “They're trying to avoid the problem that a lot of cities have where they kind of, so to speak, get caught with their ordinances down,” he says.

        Tristate communities working on their adult-business laws include:

        • Mason: This fast-growing Warren County city, which has yet to receive an application for an adult business, wants to keep it that way. Having already passed laws regulating sexually oriented businesses in 1996, officials say they are updating their ordinance to close any potential loopholes.

        “There have been changes in the law and court interpretations... since we originally had legislation,” says Law Director Ken Schneider. Changes to Mason's ordinance — which becomes effective Sept. 12 — include clarifying nonconforming uses and changing the amount of fees applicants pay for a license and the review process. The changes were approved by City Council Aug. 13.

        • Waynesville: Mayor Ernie Lawson says he has asked the planning commission to draft legislation for adult businesses. Although village officials say they've never had a problem with adult businesses wanting to locate here, they want to be prepared.

        “Sexually oriented businesses are popping up in really unexpected places and municipalities that you haven't seen in the past. We would like to address that issue before it happens here,” says Mr. Lawson. He expects village officials to pass a second reading on the ordinance Sept. 4, making it effective immediately.

        • Covington: Though this Northern Kentucky city already has a sexually oriented business ordinance, officials want to create a single district restricting such businesses. There are about seven sexually oriented businesses in Covington, says City Solicitor Jay Fossett.

        “Right now, we're concerned about where they can locate,” Mr. Fossett says. “So we want to focus those types of businesses in one particular area.” A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17, and the ordinance could become effective immediately after two readings.

        In Monroe, city officials are in a court battle against Bristol's Show Club and Revue, which is trying to overturn Monroe's requirement that sexually oriented businesses and their employees obtain a license to operate.

        A week ago, a federal judge in Cincinnati ruled in favor of Monroe's motion to have the case heard in Warren County Municipal Court, instead of federal court.

        Monroe city officials have said they would make sure the Hustler store complies with zoning law requiring that no more than 40 percent of a business' inventory is sexually oriented.

        Meanwhile, the cash register is busy at Hustler Hollywood. Mr. Flynt, the business' president, says clientele are mostly from Butler, Warren, Hamilton and Montgomery counties.

        “Business is many, many times over what I thought it would be,” says Mr. Flynt. “... I haven't had any problems with my neighbors or the city. My opposition comes from well-financed, right-wing conservative groups.”

        A stone's throw from the Hustler store is Sara Jane's Country Cookin, where business remains brisk, says manager Frank Joy.

        “As far as I can tell, it hasn't affected our business at all. They do their thing and we do ours,” he says.

        Ryan Alexander, 24, of Wilmington, Ohio, was at Hustler perusing the goods Tuesday. It was his third time at the store.

        “Everybody has the choice to come in or not come in,” he says. “I feel like taking away the right of customers to frequent a store like this goes against everything America stands for.”


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