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North Las Vegas Weighs Adult Businesses

Las Vegas- With apologies to its bigger, glitzier neighbor to the south, North Las Vegas might want to think about a new civic slogan: “What happens there can stay there.”

Hoping to foster a family atmosphere that distinguishes it from some of Las Vegas’ coarser offerings, North Las Vegas would like to put out a “Keep Moving” sign for strippers and adult-video outlets.

Next month the City Council is to consider an ordinance that could be used to restrict future adult-oriented businesses, as well as other downscale enterprises such as pawn shops and payday-loan operations.

There’s only one potential problem: the First Amendment.

Allen Lichtenstein, the attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, argues the proposed ordinance would violate the First Amendment and almost certainly would lead to a court battle.

The proposal, introduced last week, would require adult businesses to get a special permit to open. The permitting body would be the five-member City Council.

That’s illegal, Lichtenstein said. “The Supreme Court has said very clearly that a First Amendment business is not a privilege that can be granted by the government,” he said.

Cities can legally use zoning to control the location of adult businesses, which now must be more than 1,000 feet from schools, churches and other public places.

But the proposed ordinance, the ACLU argues, would improperly allow the council to make subjective, moralistic judgments in approving or denying permits for individual adult businesses.

North Las Vegas officials, though, think there’s less to the ACLU’s argument than to the costumes worn _ or not _ by the dancers in the clubs that the proposal seeks to regulate.

Still, ACLU leaders hope to meet with North Las Vegas officials to outline their concerns before March 7, when the ordinance goes before the council for approval to see if there is a way to avoid challenging the proposal.

The ordinance would apply only to future businesses, meaning the 40-year-old Palomino Club _ and the city’s two other strip clubs _ Lacy’s and Cheerleaders _ are safe for now. There are no adult bookstores or theaters currently in the city.

And the ordinance is aimed at trying to keep it that way.

Ironically, those in the adult-entertainment business say North Las Vegas may not need an ordinance to achieve that goal.

“Nobody I know in the adult business is interested in going into North Las Vegas,” said Wayne Bridge, chief executive of the Sin City Chamber of Commerce, which counts more than 100 adult businesses as members.

There simply isn’t enough tourism, he said.

Some city officials, though, say they are not willing to rely on market forces to limit the possible spread of adult businesses into North Las Vegas _ the country’s second-fastest growing city. Hence the proposed ordinance.

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