Louisville- Louisville might have to wait a year or two longer before it could see the end of nude dancing.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals has ordered metro government officials not to enforce their tough new adult-entertainment ordinance until the courts reach a final decision on whether it is constitutional.
Approved last year by the Louisville Metro Council, the ordinance prohibits nude dancing, requires dancers to stay at least 6 feet from customers while performing and orders the clubs to close by 1 a.m.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Ryan ruled in December that the ordinance’s provisions are legal.
Several strip clubs appealed, arguing that the measure violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression. In the interim, they asked the appeals court to block enforcement while the case is heard.
On Wednesday, the three-judge Court of Appeals panel agreed, 2-1. The majority said metro officials had not proved “sufficient” harm to the public good to justify allowing enforcement to begin.
The ruling was issued by Judge Wilfrid Schroder, with John Miller, sitting as a special judge, concurring. Judge R.W. Dyche III dissented.
Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze and the strip clubs have asked that the Kentucky Supreme Court take up the case directly, bypassing the Court of Appeals.
Frank Mascagni, attorney for PT’s Show Club and several other clubs, said yesterday that the Supreme Court should decide the case because “there is a lack of precedent in Kentucky law” on some of the ordinance’s provisions.
Lawyers for the clubs predicted yesterday that it might take up to two years before that court makes a final decision.
Mike Ocello, president of VCG Holdings in St. Louis, which runs PT’s on East Market Street, said yesterday that the ordinance “would be devastating. We would have to consider closing shop.”
Mike Hatzell, another lawyer representing the adult businesses, said that the appellate court’s enforcement ban is critical because if the ordinance eventually is found to be unconstitutional, the clubs could never recover lost business.
But the ruling enraged Metro Councilman Bob Henderson, D-14th District, one of the measure’s sponsors.
“This is worse than disappointing,” he said. “(The court) has ignored what the people want. These places are right up next to churches and homes, and nothing is being done.”
Maze said yesterday that he might ask the Court of Appeals to reconsider its enforcement ban.
He affirmed his belief that the measure is viable and constitutional.
Ocello said that PT’s, for one, employs about 100 people and generates about $1 million a year in employee payroll taxes and in property and business fees and taxes the club pays.
He said the club averages 1,500 to 2,000 customers a week, and triples that when major conventions come to town.