Lawsuit claims new metro rules on operations illegal

Joseph Gerth

Source: The Courier-Journal

A new Louisville metro government ordinance that limits the hours that strip clubs and adult bookstores can operate is unconstitutional, lawyers for several adult businesses told a Jefferson circuit judge yesterday.

But a lawyer for the metro government argued that courts throughout the country have upheld similar limits.

A group of local strip clubs and adult bookstores yesterday asked Judge Stephen Ryan to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing the ordinance adopted last week by the Metro Council and signed Tuesday by Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson .

It would require adult businesses to be closed on weekdays between 1 and 11 a.m. and between 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Bill O’Brien said the metro government will begin enforcing the ordinance next Wednesday .

Ryan had asked that the metro government wait until Dec. 15 to begin enforcement so that he could issue his decision first.

But Abramson spokesman Jay Blanton said that officials are holding to Dec. 10.

“We believe the ordinance adopted by the council will hold up in court, and we will move expeditiously to implement it,” Blanton said.

Paul Gold, a lawyer representing P.T.’s Showclub and Deja vu, said he and other lawyers likely will ask Ryan to order the city to delay daily enforcement until a decision is reached.

Yesterday, the lawyers sparred in court over the ordinance, debating whether it violates several constitutional rights.

Bradley Shafer, a lawyer for Deja vu and the Win, Place and Show bar, argued that the ordinance infringes on dancers’ rights to perform nude, which is constitutionally protected free expression.

He also argued that the ordinance requires some of the businesses to reduce their hours by as much as 40 percent, which would cut their profits. Shafer said the government should compensate the businesses or rescind the law.

Shafer also contended that the Metro Council enacted the restricted hours on Saturdays and Sundays in deference to Christian and Jewish religious practices, violating the constitutional prohibition against governments enacting laws establishing religions.

But O’Brien, who heads the county attorney’s civil division, and Assistant County Attorney Scott Lilly argued that their opponents were relying on rulings and decisions that do not apply to the Louisville case.

The government’s interest in regulating adult businesses comes from studies that show that those businesses spur crimes such as prostitution, O’Brien said.

Lawyers for the adult businesses said outside the courtroom that there is more crime around bars and 24-hour convenience stores.

“They should shut down the 7-Elevens,” Shafer said. “That’s where crime really occurs.”

O’Brien called that argument “ridiculous.”

“That’s like saying we should shut down the banks because that’s where bank robberies occur,” he said.


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