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Jon-Jon’s Targeted by City

Warren, Georgia- Owners of sexually oriented businesses face new restrictions if they consider opening up shop in Warren.

City officials have approved the first set of ordinance changes regulating adults-only businesses.

“I don’t want to take the chance of another sexually-oriented business coming into the city,” Councilwoman Donna Caumartin said.

Under the ordinance revisions recently approved by the City Council, sexually oriented businesses must be more than 750 feet from residential areas, and at least 1,000 feet from any school, day care center, library, church or public park. Before, such establishments could open 500 feet from homes.

Jon-Jon’s, a topless lounge on Mound Road, and Bookworld, an adult book store with “peep show” video rooms, are the only such businesses in Michigan’s third-largest city. Both abut neighborhoods, but are exempt from the location criteria because they preceded the revised ordinance. Jon-Jon’s has been open for 30 years.

“We were here before a lot of the homes went up,” owner Vicki Cerrito said.

“Grandfathered” under the city’s old ordinance, Jon-Jon’s and Bookworld cannot be forced by the city to shut down, city Attorney George Constance and police Chief James Vohs said.

Both men believe that other pending regulations could put Warren at the forefront of combating prostitution and other secondary effects of adult businesses. The measures, said Constance, are “not designed for any one industry. It is not designed for any one location.”

The proposed rules include:

A $1,000 business license.

A $25 license for each employee. An applicant would be subject to a criminal background check and have to provide personal background information, including home address, Social Security number, photograph and proof of age.

Building inspections by city departments and the Macomb County Health Department.

Any person who violates the ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to 90 days in jail and fine of up to $500.

The proposed ordinance was researched by city attorneys about three years ago. The package was submitted to the last City Council in 2001, but members never put it to a final vote.

At the time, Jon-Jon’s employees criticized the proposed regulations. An earlier provision – but not part of the current proposal – included a ban on lap dances. According to that previous ordinance draft, an employee who is nude or “semi-nude” would have to stay at least 3 feet from any customer, avoid touching the patron and be on a stage at least 2 feet from the floor.

Council members have not explained why that section was stripped from the current set of proposed regulations. But the last Warren City Council – which served until November – wanted a provision that exempts from licensing requirements any sexually oriented business regulated by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Liquor commission rules prohibit lap dancing.

Cerrito said her lounge makes less money at the expense of topless bars that don’t follow the law.

“(Patrons) can go to Eight Mile and get more for their money. I’ll settle for less money to have a clean reputation,” she said. “We don’t do lap dancing because we know the LCC doesn’t allow it.”

With the proposed regulations, Jon-Jon’s management would be required to provide the city with an employee roster and the birthdays, home addresses and telephone numbers of the topless lounge’s workers. Bookworld would be forced to remove doors on peep show rooms.

Some council members say the regulations aren’t tough enough because a 2001 council edict that prohibits hourly rentals at motels and hotels in Warren is not included.

Constance said Warren could more effectively monitor such businesses for prostitution by implementing an 8-hour rule. If police or other inspectors see that a facility rent rooms twice for less than 8 hours on any day, the building would be subject to adult-themed business regulations.

“I don’t think any hotel or motel is going to raise their hand and say, ‘We are an adult business,'” Constance said.

Council President James Fouts was disappointed a ban on hourly rates was omitted. “We made a commitment. We ought to follow it through,” he said.

Councilman Mike Wiecek, a retired Detroit police officer, said prostitutes could easily skirt the 8-hour rule by hooking up with several johns during the span and by privately arranging reduced rates with motel clerks.

The push by the council for tougher regulations isn’t the first of its kind in Warren. Past councils trumpeted the need for new restrictions in 1996, 2000 and 2001. Each time, the issue faded with officials putting no new rules on the books.

One exception was in 1998, when the city passed an ordinance requiring party stores and other businesses to conceal the covers of adult magazines and videos.

Other communities in Macomb County also have tackled concerns about adult businesses.

In the 1970s, Clinton Township residents and officials were at the forefront of the anti-pornography movement, as residents picketed in front of adult bookstores and massage parlors. The public pressure forced the businesses to close.

In the 1990s, the owner of three Detroit topless bars tried to open a semi-topless club on Groesbeck where dancers wore pasties over their nipples to avoid meeting the definition of a topless club. As a result, all liquor licenses coming into Clinton included language that bans any type of topless or adult activity.

Township police last week raided a candle shop on 15 Mile Road that authorities said was a front for illegal sex acts. Two women were offering massages and sex acts in exchange for cash, police said. Police shut down the facility and charges are pending.

In 2002, the owners of Jade’s Closet in Roseville sued the city when the City Council prohibited the sale of adult videos, magazines and marital aids. A lawyer for the store, on 13 Mile Road at Gratiot, said the proprietors met all zoning rules, tinted the store’s display windows and posted a sign prohibiting minors.

The council reversed itself less than three weeks later. The agreement with Jade’s Closet required employees to keep adult toys in the back of the store and keep minors out of the store.
 

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