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Seven Strip Clubs Will File Lawsuit

Kentucky- The owners of seven Northern Kentucky strip clubs said they will file a lawsuit this week challenging a regulating ordinance adopted last Tuesday by Kenton County Fiscal Court. They claim the ordinance violates their First Amendment right to free speech.

Kenton County was the first Northern Kentucky government to adopt the new ordinance, which imposes regulations on all types of sexually oriented business, including strip clubs, escort services and adult bookstores.

Jeffrey Willis, CEO of the La Fox Group, which owns Rodney’s La Fox and Viva La Fox in Covington, said Cincinnati lawyer H. Louis Sirkin would file the suit on behalf of club owners.

Other clubs participating in the suit, Willis said, are Club Venus and The Pad in Covington; The Brass Bull and The Brass Mule in Newport; and The Playpen Gentleman’s Club in Wilder.

Willis said he and the other owners are in favor of regulation, but that Kenton County’s ordinance simply goes too far and hinders the ability of club owners and entertainers to make a living and operate. He disputed government officials’ assertion that the clubs are breaking the law.

“We’re already under one of the most stringent ordinances in Covington and now they are trying to say that our performers can’t even talk to anyone,” Willis said, referring to a provision in the Kenton County measure that prohibits dancers who perform on stage from setting foot in areas of the club open to customers.

“When did these people get the right to tell somebody who they could and couldn’t talk to?” Willis said. “They have no right to do that.”

The leading proponent of the new ordinance, Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, said he anticipated that adult business owners would challenge it.

“If they didn’t put up a fight, I would have worried that we didn’t make the ordinance strong enough,” Edmondson said. “The ordinance passes all constitutional muster and uses tested case law from around the country. We’re ready for the fight.”

Willis said the lawsuit would argue that Fiscal Court made several procedural errors when adopting the ordinances. He said specifics would be laid out in the lawsuit.

Sirkin, who has made a name for himself representing adult business owners like Larry Flynt, could not be rea-

ched for comment Friday.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that that, while communities must allow for adult business, they are permitted to regulate them. What designates a “community,” though, has always remained ambiguous.

Kenton and Campbell counties are trying to unify their sexually oriented business ordinances so that they can make a case that the two counties operate as one community.

If they can get the courts to buy that argument, they think that would relieve most of the 37 cities in the two counties from the requirement to each create a zone for adult businesses.

A study by Duncan Associates, an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm hired by the counties and cities, was used in drafting the ordinance. The second portion of the study will determine which areas in the region should be zoned for sexually oriented business.

Proponents of the ordinance unapologetically admit they hope the ordinance will deter new adult businesses from opening in the two counties and encourage those already there to close.

That tells clubs that they are unfairly being singled out, said Brian LeGory, co-owner of Club Venus in Covington.

He says too often people take the word of politicians who claim the clubs are havens for drugs and prostitution.

“I admit I am not running a church, but it is not a house of prostitution either,” LeGory said. “I support regulations because they make my job easier, but these are politically motivated and they make no sense.”

Club owners say studies reflect an agenda on the part of local authorities and are set up to intentionally skew the facts, lumping the clubs and the dancers with escorts and drug dealers that work on the streets.

Dancers in Covington must have no felony record and pay a $155 a year licensing fee to work in the clubs.

Dancers with any prostitution or drug convictions under Covington’s ordinance are barred from employment in the clubs. Kenton County’s new ordinance includes the same language.

Darlene Gram who said she has worked as a bartender at Viva La Fox for the past three years, said the new Kenton County law will make it harder for entertainers to get by.

“A lot of the girls that come in here don’t have a lot of money to begin with. That doesn’t make them prostitutes,” she said.

“It’s hard enough to pay the licensing fees,” she added. “I agree we need regulations, but once a girl is convicted of prostitution, she is not allowed to work at the clubs again. Nobody who works here has ever been convicted of anything, so why are additional regulations needed? If there is a problem, just take their licenses away.”

Edmondson said if the threatened lawsuit includes Campbell County clubs, it would be thrown out because Campbell County hasn’t approved its adult business zone ordinance yet.

“I don’t think they’ve looked very hard at the legal issues here, which doesn’t surprise me,” Edmondson said. “We invited representatives from all the clubs as well as their legal counsel to participate in the drafting of the ordinance, but we never heard a peep from them. We had a first reading of the ordinance and they said nothing.”

Club owners said they chose to keep a low profile until it became clear in which direction the Kenton ordinance was going. Now that it’s official, owners say they are gearing up for a full-scale fight.

“The bottom line is that we are going to make this a very public case,” Willis said.

“We want the people of Kenton County to know exactly how much was spent on this worthless piece of paper.”



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