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Ohio Strip-club owners, dancers begin efforts to overturn new state law

COLUMBUS — Strip-club owners and dancers will try to give voters a chance to overturn a law that forbids touching strippers and halts nude dancing after midnight, groups representing both said.

The opponents are beginning to collect the signatures needed to put the issue on Ohio’s November ballot. By naming itself Citizens for Community Standards, the group took a swipe at Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, the conservative Christian group that pushed for the restrictions in the Legislature.

The statewide crackdown cleared the Legislature last month and was allowed to become law by Gov. Ted Strickland without his signature.

Club owners lobbied against the measure as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and expression.

The law prohibits sexually oriented businesses not holding valid liquor licenses from operating between midnight and 6 a.m.

Those with liquor licenses could stay open, provided they cease from offering sexually oriented entertainment involving nude performers.

It also institutes a statewide ban on physical contact between club employees who are nude or semi-nude with patrons.

Violators will face first-degree misdemeanor charges for touching specified anatomical areas and fourth-degree misdemeanors for touching other parts.

Business affected include adult bookstores, adult video stores, adult cabarets, adult movie theaters, sexual device shops and sexual encounter centers, according to the state’s Legislative Service Commission.

Last month, state Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, joined 23 other Democrats in voting against the legislation.

Sandy Theis, a spokeswoman for the Buckeye Association of Club Executives, which represents strip-club owners, and Dancers for Democracy, said the law is already hurting clubs and dancers, even though it does not go into effect until Sept. 4.

“Customers think it’s gone into effect, so they are afraid to patronize Ohio’s adult cabarets,” she said.

The committee will need to collect 241,366 signatures — a number that equals 6 percent of the total vote cast in the 2006 governor’s race — by Sept. 3 to get the issue on the ballot.

David Miller, vice president of Citizens for Community Values, said Ohioans support the key provisions of the bill, which prohibit touching of dancers — unclothed or clothed — and prohibit dancing after midnight.

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