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‘Sexual contact’ ban drafted in Minnesota

Mille Lacs, Minnesota- Strip club performers could lose their means to making a living in Mille Lacs County under the latest draft of a new adult-use ordinance.

Strippers or exotic dancers would no longer be able to accept tips or touch anyone in the audience under a provision “prohibiting sexual contact in any business.”

Sexual contact is defined in the latest draft of the ordinance as intentional touching by a patron or employee of a performer’s private body parts or kissing that “can reasonably be construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal” of either party.

It is ironic, if not inevitable, that to restrict sexually oriented entertainment in the county, officials have felt the need to include increasingly explicit language in a new ordinance.

The rules, which also prohibit any performer from coming within six feet of a customer, are being replicated by more and more communities. In fact the exact same rules have been applied previously against a strip club south of St. Paul owned by the current proprietor of Fat Jack’s Cabaret in Bock,

Barbara Berg, a Mille Lacs County assistant attorney, cited a 2002 federal appeals court decision that upheld the restrictions against Jake’s. That was the strip club Rich Jacobson fought the city of Coates in court for 11 years to keep open.

Within two months of ultimately losing that battle, Jacobson opened Fat Jack’s five miles west of Milaca late last year.
Jacobson disagreed with the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals which also ruled last April that a similar prohibition on sexual contact in Lincoln, Neb., was constitutional.

These laws are still being challenged by Jacobson’s frequent attorney, Randall Tigue of St. Paul.

“They are designed for no other purpose than to put strip clubs out of business, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you,” said Tigue, who specializes in providing a First Amendment defense for adult entertainment business owners.

“Nude dancing is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment,” according to the court of appeals decision in Jake’s vs. city of Coates. Regulation of nude dancing at businesses such as Jake’s is permissible, however, so long as such regulation promotes “a substantial government interest.”

Mille Lacs County declares in its draft ordinance that a prohibition on sexual contact inside such establishments is necessary “to deter criminal activity, to promote societal order and public health and to protect children.” The ban would help curb prostitution, disorderly conduct, drug possession and sexual assault, the draft ordinance states.

This language assumes that the presence of sexually oriented business can have “dehumanizing influence” on church-goers, park users, day care clients as well as residential property owners.

There is legal precedent, the appeals court wrote, that a city has an “interest in preserving the quality of urban life and the character of its neighborhoods (to justify) zoning restrictions intended to minimize such effects.”

The county would still allow sexual contact as part of a performance in a theater, concert hall, art center or a museum.

Jacobson said local government must conduct its own “secondary effects” studies to prove a strip club will or is having a negative effect on a community.

He contends his non-alcoholic club does more good by bringing additional business to the two bars and gas station in Bock as well as generating more property taxes for the city.

Any new county rules concerning adult entertainment businesses will not apply to Fat Jack’s because the club is located within the city of Bock.

Asked Saturday if he feared the city adopting the same restrictions as Coates officials did years after his club opened there, Jacobson said, “They can try whatever they want. But I’m not going to do their work for them.”

Jacobson conceded that such rules would make it difficult, if not impossible, for his dancers to continue to do topless lapdances for individual customers, as is common at most strip clubs. He said he charges $20 per lapdance. Dancers make their money at the club entirely from tips, he said.

A divided Bock City Council pulled Jacobson’s liquor license last March. As a result, Fat Jack’s as a “juice bar” stays open much later than the two taverns across the street and allows 18-year-olds to enter.

Jacobson, whose father also runs a strip club in Cannon Falls, said he is used to conservative citizens and government officials trying to regulate him out of existence.

“If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come to my club,” he said, adding that he makes too good of a living to give up the fight.

 

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