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Strips Clubs not Welcome in Wyandotte County

Kansas City- Strip clubs – not a NASCAR speedway and booming retail development – used to define the entertainment scene in Wyandotte County, dogging it with a reputation for crime and moral turpitude.

Those clubs were closed in the 1990s. Now county leaders fear those clubs are trying to set up shop in Edwardsville, close to Kansas Speedway and the booming Village West development in western Kansas City, Kan.

And they have a message for the prospective owners of those clubs:

They’re not welcome.

Last Thursday, Wyandotte County’s governing body unanimously approved a resolution that imposes strict regulations on adult entertainment businesses. The resolution, which had been placed on the agenda Thursday morning, echoes an ordinance that Kansas City, Kan., adopted more than a decade ago to fight strip clubs.

Among other things, the resolution limits adult entertainment business hours to between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., creates prohibitions against employees touching various parts of customers’ bodies, and requires a detailed criminal background check on operators and employees.

Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon [pictured], as well as the mayors of Edwardsville and Bonner Springs, stated their support for the resolution after meeting Thursday afternoon with Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman.

Reardon noted that in the last decade the city had worked hard to overcome the negative reputation the old strip clubs created and had begun to establish itself as a family-friendly community.

“We do not want to go back to the time when that kind of thing was in our community,” Reardon said. “And we’ll do anything we can, working in a unified way, to stop adult entertainment from coming back.”

Gorman said he pushed the resolution after he learned recently that Edwardsville had received two applications for adult entertainment businesses.

Gorman declined to release the applications, which would include the applicants’ names.

Edwardsville City Administrator Doug Spangler also declined, saying he had given the applications to the city’s part-time attorney for review. The attorney did not return messages left at his office. Edwardsville Mayor Stephanie Eickhoff said the city had not begun processing the applications.

Both applicants, Gorman said, have ties to strip clubs in Kansas City, Mo.

Their interest in coming to Kansas, he said, could stem from wanting to escape a strict adult entertainment law that recently went into effect in Missouri.

Although a Cole County circuit judge struck that law down as a violation of the Missouri Constitution, the state has appealed the ruling.

In justifying the need for strict regulations, the Wyandotte County resolution states that adult entertainment businesses are often a magnet for crime – including drug dealing and prostitution – and that they contribute to blight.

That language was also used in the early 1990s, when Carol Marinovich, then a Kansas City, Kan., councilwoman, and then-District Attorney Nick Tomasic crusaded to close the city’s topless bars.

Through strict enforcement of zoning regulations and the new business license requirements, the city was able to shut them all down.

Marinovich and Tomasic knew that neither the county nor the cities could legally prevent the businesses from setting up shop. But they could establish regulations that made operating an adult entertainment business a cumbersome process.

By approving the resolution, the Unified Board of Commissioners did just that, requiring adult entertainment businesses to apply for a county business license in addition to the ones already required in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. Unified Government Chief Council Hal Walker said he was confident that the resolution would withstand any court challenge.

Eickhoff said she welcomed the county resolution, which, she added, was stricter than her city’s.

Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith said he was pleased with the Unified Government’s action. “We do not need this kind of entertainment in Wyandotte County,” he said, “and I’ll do anything in my power to fight it.”

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