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KY Supreme Court to Strippers: No Touch

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Louisville’s efforts to regulate strip clubs got a boost this month when the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld a McCracken County ordinance requiring dancers to wear minimal covering and quit touching customers.

The unanimous, 49-page opinion said the McCracken ordinance “furthers the county’s substantial governmental interest in preventing and combating the negative secondary effects associated with sexually oriented businesses.”

Jefferson County officials said the ruling will help Louisville’s efforts to crack down on strip clubs.

The Louisville Metro Council passed a similar ordinance in 2004 prohibiting nude dancing and requiring dancers to keep at least six feet from customers while performing. Both the Louisville and McCracken ordinances require clubs to close by 1 a.m.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals had ordered Louisville not to enforce its ordinance until the courts decide whether it is constitutional.

“This ruling tightens the noose; it removes a major obstacle that had been in our path,” Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze said, adding that he will consult his staff and other officials before deciding whether to enforce the local ordinance.

Frank Mascagni, an attorney representing Jefferson County clubs challenging the ordinance, conceded that yesterday’s ruling “hurts us, but it ain’t over yet.”

Mascagni said he likely will ask that the case be reconsidered next year after three new justices are seated.

“If that doesn’t work, we’ll strongly consider asking the U.S. Supreme Court” to take the case, Mascagni said.

At issue in this month’s ruling is the ordinance McCracken Fiscal Court adopted in 2000 that requires strip-club dancers to wear at least pasties and a G-string. It also prohibits dancers and employees touching patrons.

It imposes a maximum $500 fine and jail time for people convicted of violating the ordinance.

Edward Green Jameson challenged the ordinance after his Paducah club — Regina’s II — was cited for violating the ordinance.

A McCracken District judge upheld the ordinance before the Kentucky Court of Appeals sent the case back for a hearing to determine whether it actually promoted McCracken’s goal of reducing negative effects of strips clubs, such as increased crime and lower property values.

But the Supreme Court opinion reversed that, saying the burden is not on a local government to prove the need for such ordinances but on club owners to prove that such ordinances do not work.

“The judiciary should not second-guess the judgment of local government officials,” Justice Will Scott wrote for the high court.

David Kelly, a private attorney representing McCracken County, called the ruling “a significant victory — particularly for small communities across the state, because it reaffirms a standard that communities don’t have to commission their own studies and hire their own experts to enact ordinances to regulate the adverse secondary effects caused by these type of businesses.”
 

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