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Boone County looks at strip club law

Kentucky- As Kenton County puts the finishing touches on its new ordinance regulating strip clubs and other adult businesses, another Northern Kentucky county has begun studying the issue.

Boone County opted not to participate in a study on sexually oriented business regulation that was completed in 2003, but now says it is moving forward with plans to regulate such businesses through licensing and zoning.

Boone County Administrator Jeff Earlywine said he wants to address the issue before the county winds up in court over it.

“We’re trying to be proactive about this issue,” he said. “We think a good time to make ourselves legally defensible is when we don’t have any legal challenge before us.”

That differs from the strategy of Earlywine’s predecessor, Jim Parsons, who reasoned that because no strip clubs were looking to locate in the county, passing regulations would stir up unnecessary controversy.

Parsons favored a legal approach, warning that Boone County would challenge in court any adult business that tried to locate there. His hope was that the prospect of expensive litigation would force such businesses to go elsewhere.

So far, no one has tried to open an adult business in the county, which has no regulations or zoning for sexually oriented businesses.

Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore said the move to study regulating adult businesses does not signal a drastic change for the county.

“We’ve been very successful with our current standard,” Moore said. “We’re just looking at some ways we can strengthen our position.”

Moore said the discussions between Boone and its three cities – Walton, Union and Florence – are in the early stages, and he isn’t sure if the county would move toward adopting a countywide ordinance or have each jurisdiction adopt its own.

Meanwhile, Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, who spearheaded the 2003 sexually oriented business study, said Kenton’s ordinance is virtually complete.

Regulations already are in place, and Edmondson said every city in the county, with the exception of Latonia Lakes and Morning View, have adopted the accompanying zoning regulating where sexually oriented business may locate.

Edmondson said Morning View officials have informed him they would adopt the zoning in the next few weeks. Latonia Lakes, Edmondson said, isn’t conducting any business right now because of a ballot measure in November to dissolve the city.

Adult businesses can locate in just six Kenton County cities – Covington, Independence, Erlanger, Elsmere, Taylor Mill and Crestview Hills. They were chosen because they all have industrial areas that officials think would be unattractive locales for such business.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that a community must allow for such business, but it can regulate them. Some feared that ruling could require even small residential communities like Villa Hills and Lakeside Park to establish zones for strip clubs, adult bookstores and other sexually oriented business.

So Edmondson, with the support of the county and its cities, has spent more than three years trying to establish Kenton County as one “community” for the purpose of zoning and regulating sexually oriented business.

The six cities were not specifically named in the ordinance. Rather, Edmondson said, they are the only places that include areas that comply with the restrictions outlined in the ordinance. The two major ones:

Adult businesses must be located in an industrial zone.

Businesses must be at least 1,000 feet from any residential area, school, religious institution, park, library, public recreation area, daycare center or other sexually oriented businesses.

Although business may locate in those six cities, the ordinance and accompanying zoning had to be approved by the county and each of its cities to make it applicable countywide.

While there have been no challenges to the zoning aspect of Kenton’s ordinance, the strip club regulations are being challenged in U.S. District Court by two Covington clubs, Rodney’s LaFoxx and Club Venus.

The clubs argue that Kenton County’s licensing fee of $3,000 a year for clubs is excessive. The lawsuit also challenges the regulation that bans women who dance at strip clubs from mingling with customers offstage, saying that is how many dancers make a majority of their tips.

Edmondson, who supports the ordinance in its current form, said his staff would review the ordinance regularly to ensure it conformed to decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Campbell County, which helped pay for the 2003 study that was the guideline for Kenton’s ordinance, is drafting its own countywide ordinance on sexually oriented businesses.

Campbell officials say they intend to use Kenton’s ordinance as a model and hope to have language for the measure drafted sometime this fall.

Edmondson said the cooperation between Kenton and Campbell counties to develop their sexually oriented business regulations is perhaps unprecedented.

“We’ve achieved something that I’m not sure anybody else in the country has done,” he said.

“We’re not aware of any other, two-county region coming together to act as one community when dealing with these issues. We think it’s something to be proud of.”


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