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Louisville Adult Business Ordinance Blocked

Louisville- Dancers in Louisville strip clubs are once again allowed to shed their clothes past 1 a.m. and adult bookstores may keep their doors open as long as they want without fear of police interference – at least for the time being.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Stephen P. Ryan has granted a temporary injunction that blocks the city from enforcing an ordinance that regulates the hours of adult businesses.

Ryan ruled that serious questions have been raised about whether the ordinance causes irreparable harm by violating the dancers’ right to perform nude as freedom of expression; whether it is deferential to Jewish and Christian sabbaths; and whether it is too vague.

Ryan’s ruling is the latest in an ongoing legal battle between the city and adult businesses. In both an interview and his order, Ryan stressed that the merits of the case still have not been decided.

The decision on whether the ordinance is legal is not expected soon, and the case most likely will end up before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

“I’m going to be instructing my clients to go back to business as usual,” said Frank Mascagni, a lawyer representing Déjà vu and P.T.’s Showclub.

For the past three weeks, police have been citing adult bookstores that remained open past 1 a.m. and strip clubs that featured nude dancers after 1 a.m. (Some strip clubs have liquor licenses and may stay open until 4 a.m., but dancers must be clothed after 1 a.m., according to the ordinance.)

Police report issuing about 10 citations, and Mascagni said he would make a motion that two issued against P.T.’s be dismissed, or at least put on hold until a final ruling on the legality of the ordinance.

The county attorney’s office, which only weeks ago had celebrated the lifting of a restraining order that had blocked enforcement of the ordinance, is now planning a counterattack on Ryan’s injunction.

The city will file an appeal with the Kentucky Court of Appeals by next week, said Bill O’Brien, chief of the county attorney’s civil division, and he will discuss with the Metro Council ways to make the wording less vague and to take out any perception of religious deference.

Lawyers for adult businesses have argued that the council, which adopted the ordinance in November, discussed the Jewish and Christian Sabbaths as possible reasons why adult business hours were to be limited on the weekend, thereby violating the constitutional prohibition against government enacting laws establishing religion.

The ordinance shuts down adult businesses between 1 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, and between 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

O’Brien said the ordinance has nothing to do with religion. Still, the council could counter any perception that it does by changing the ordinance so the hours would be the same seven days a week, he said.

O’BRIEN SAID the council could draft an emergency ordinance immediately, possibly shutting down adult businesses from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day.

In yesterday’s ruling, Ryan also found merit in the argument that the ordinance is too vague, leaving open questions of what type of dancing is allowed after 1 a.m., whether the dancers must be fully clothed and whether mainstream video stores with X-rated movies could be included.

O’Brien said he didn’t think that the ordinance was vague but would discuss it with the council. He also said the curtailment of hours did not violate anyone’s freedom of expression.

“We aren’t telling dancers they can’t dance,” he said.

OWNERS OF adult businesses have complained that the hours between 1 and 4 a.m. are the most popular and profitable for them, with most customers arriving in that time frame.

O’Brien said lawyers for the adult businesses are picking out minor issues to fight the ordinance.

“We want to get … down to the real issues,” he said. “We will not allow the adult businesses to wear us down.”

Mascagni said Ryan’s ruling validated the argument that the ordinance violates First Amendment freedoms.

“We stopped burning books a long time ago,” he said.

“You may not like the content, but we have the right to print and express the idea.”



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