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[Ohio] Strip-club law being challenged

October 18, 2007
October 21, 2007
Strip club owners go to court
By John McCarthy

Associated Press

DISH Network Satellite TV


COLUMBUS - Strip club owners went to court Wednesday to block a new law that prohibits patrons from touching dancers and puts other restrictions on adult business operations.

The moves came as Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner reiterated that a coalition of strip club owners failed to collect enough signatures to put the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot. The referendum sought to have voters to overturn the law. Brunner's dismissal means the law passed in May takes effect immediately.

Club operators filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cleveland asking a judge to issue a restraining order, saying the law was unconstitutionally vague and suppresses the right of free expression. A judge may rule as early as today.

Later Wednesday, club operators filed an action in the Ohio Supreme Court asking that Brunner's handling of several rounds of signatures be reviewed.

The new restrictions include a ban on dancers touching patrons or each other and a prohibition of nude dancing in clubs after midnight. Clubs whose liquor licenses let them stay open after midnight may continue to do so, but nude dancing after that hour will not be allowed.

"It's un-American to limit free speech just because it offends the moral code of a small but noisy group of censors," Luke Liakos, president of the Buckeye Association of Club Executives, said in a statement.

The law was supposed to take effect Sept. 4, but the ballot drive held up its enforcement. State law allows 90 days for voters to try to repeal a new law.

Backers of the referendum collected 181,808 valid signatures of Ohio voters. They needed 241,366 - 6 percent of the total vote in the 2006 election for governor - to qualify for the ballot. They also had to have at least 3 percent of the vote in 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.

They passed that threshold in 46 counties, Brunner said in a letter Wednesday to the issue's backers. On Monday, Brunner reported they had met the threshold in just 15 counties, with 16 counties yet to report. After all counties reported, Brunner's office came up with the new figure.

"The information the other day was preliminary information. Nothing was certified at that time," Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega said.

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Strip-club law being challenged

Thursday, October 18, 2007 4:01 AM

By Alan Johnson
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Inside the new law

Highlights of Senate Bill 16, also known as the Community Defense Act:

* Requires "sexually oriented businesses" to close between midnight and 6 a.m. Clubs with liquor permits can remain open after midnight, but adult entertainment must cease.

This includes adult bookstores, video stores and motion-picture theaters, sexual-device shops and "sexual encounter" centers. It does not cover businesses selling or renting R-rated movies.
* Prohibits touching a nude or semi-nude dancer, or their clothing, in a club, anywhere on the premises or the parking lot. This excludes members of the dancer's immediate family.

Touching a dancer's genitals, buttocks or the "female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola" is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Any other contact is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

Source: S.B. 16
Erotic dancers, adult bookstores and video outlets provide "constitutionally protected expression," opponents of Ohio's new strip-club law argued in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.

The filing by the Buckeye Association of Club Executives says nude dancers and adult-entertainment establishments should be constitutionally protected the same as stage plays such as Hair and O h ! Calcutta !, novels such as Ulysses by James Joyce and Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, and paintings of nude models such as those by Degas, Renoir and Raphael.

In the suit filed against 68 city law directors and county prosecutors statewide, Cleveland lawyer J. Michael Murray says the law that took effect yesterday violates the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. in Cleveland late yesterday heard the club executives' request for a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the law. Oliver said he will decide today after receiving written briefs from attorneys for club owners and Attorney General Marc Dann.

The legal attack focuses on the law known as the Community Defense Act, which took effect immediately when Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner officially declared a referendum campaign had failed. Brunner said the Vote No on Issue 1 Committee fell short by nearly 60,000 valid signatures; it needed 241,366.

The law enacts a no-touch rule at strip clubs and a midnight closing time for all adult-oriented businesses.

After first announcing on Monday that the Vote No committee failed a second test -- obtaining signatures from at least 44 counties equal to 3 percent of the total vote in the 2006 gubernatorial election -- Brunner said yesterday that "upon further review" the committee in fact met the standard in 46 counties.

On another legal front, opponents of the law filed a second lawsuit late yesterday, this one asking the Ohio Supreme Court to force Brunner to accept as valid all signatures on the committee's petition that were not returned to her office by Monday's deadline.

Columbus lawyer Donald J. McTigue, representing club executives, said state elections law requires the secretary of state to count as valid all signatures returned to her office past the deadline, which was missed by several counties.

Sandy Theis, spokeswoman for the Vote No on Issue 1 Committee and Dancers for Democracy, said club owners plan to follow the law by stopping the dancers at midnight until the lawsuits are settled.

Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati group that pushed state lawmakers to adopt the rules, called the referendum's failure to make the ballot "a victory for the families and communities of Ohio."

Burress described the first lawsuit as a "Hail Mary pass" by club owners and predicted it will end up in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which, he said, "already has upheld much more stringent regulations."

ajohnson@dispatch.com
[Ohio] Strip-club law being challenged
October 21, 2007
By James Nash and Jeb Phillips, The Columbus Dispatch, dated October 21, 2007:

The party was supposed to be over. But was it really?

Just before midnight Friday at Columbus Gold, a semi-nude bar near the intersection of Bethel and Sawmill roads on the Northwest Side, the announcer signaled that the re-imposition of moral values in Ohio would have to wait.

"We're going to party all night long and look at naked ladies!" he called out to the mixed crowd.

After that, tops came off. The VIP rooms remained open, promising one-on-one dances to patrons with $25 to spare. One topless dancer gave a man a lap dance, although her acrobatic gyrations avoided brushing against his lower body.

Columbus Gold apparently danced around new limits on adult entertainment in Ohio that took effect at midnight Wednesday. Enforcement of the law remained in doubt until a judge struck down an attempt to block it Thursday. The law prohibits adult entertainment -- defined as nude or topless dancing -- between midnight and 6 a.m., and outlaws any kind of physical contact with customers at any time.

Roughly 48 hours after the law took effect, The Dispatch sent reporters to three strip clubs on Friday night to see whether they were complying.

Notwithstanding the announcer's claim, the women at Columbus Gold weren't naked. At most, they were topless -- which would violate the new law -- but the manager insisted they put pasties on to conform to the law. To the untrained eye, the pasties were all but invisible.

"It does look like skin tone," said Clay Smith, a manager at the club working Friday night. "We're doing everything the best we can. We're trying to play by the rules."

One of the Columbus Gold dancers said managers called the women in for a meeting Wednesday, when it appeared that the new regulations were inevitable, and told them how to stay on the right side of the law. Managers said touching a customer's shoulders would be OK, the dancer said, but gyrating in his lap wouldn't.

Next door at Vanity Adult Resort, a members-only club that doesn't serve alcohol but allows customers to bring their own, midnight also passed without notice. There, a dancer said, managers interpreted the law as forbidding all-nude dancing but not topless dancing. There was no attempt to conceal nipples. Dancers jiggled their breasts in customers' faces and accepted dollar bills slipped in their panties.

One dancer, who declined to give her name, said business already is down and some of the women are thinking about plying their trade elsewhere -- Las Vegas, or even Indiana.

"How many people are losing their jobs?" asked one regular patron, who gave his name as John. "I'm a massive, massive Republican, and I think this is ridiculous."

Club managers at Vanity declined to comment and asked a reporter interviewing patrons to leave.

At the House of Babes on the South Side, the no-touching rule was being broken.

At one table, a man was rubbing a dancer's legs. Four seats over, a dancer sat in a man's lap. She kissed him on the mouth, then kissed him again.

A dancer on stage, wearing only a thong, draped her arms over a man's shoulders. And after she danced two songs, she took a man with a ponytail backstage for a private dance. He sat on a sofa, and she sat on top of him with her back to his face.

A dancer came up to a reporter who was watching, put her arm around him and said, "Did you get to see my entertainment?"

House of Babes dancers were told to stop topless dancing when the law took effect, he said, and the women wear bikinis during the day.

There was no evidence of enforcement at the three clubs visited by Dispatch reporters Friday night. Columbus Gold was patrolled by a moonlighting Columbus police officer, although he said his job was to protect the dancers from unruly patrons, not to act as "nipple patrol."

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