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Watchdogs to tour adult businesses; Indiana, Louisville sites on bus trip

Kentucky- For more than two years, a group of retired Hoosiers has picketed day and night outside the Lion’s Den, an adult bookstore and novelty shop near Uniontown.

Yesterday, the protesters with the Jackson County Community Watchdogs announced plans to step up their pressure to shut down the operation, located west of Interstate 65 at Exit 41.

They invited law-enforcement officials, prosecutors, ministers, mayors and members of the media to go on an Oct. 27 bus tour to Clarksville and Louisville to show what they contend are widespread and adverse effects of sexually oriented businesses.

“We want to show people what can happen when you turn your head,” said Ralph Sweany, a former mechanical engineer from Crothersville and the group’s legal liaison. “You let these businesses get a foothold, pretty soon you’ve got a porn district.”

A motor coach paid with donations from several churches and watchdog members will travel from the Jackson County courthouse in Brownstown to the Lion’s Den, then south on I-65 to Theatre X on U.S. 31 in Clark County.

In Louisville, the bus will wind past a string of businesses on Seventh Street Road near Berry Boulevard and to the 8200 block of Preston Highway — where an adult video store has closed. Another stop will be Fern Valley Road east of I-65, where the group expects to hear the owner of Grizzly Creek, a hunting and outfitter shop, discuss how his operation fared next to an adult-oriented store that has since shut down.

The itinerary is still being completed, said Rob Patterson, an anti-pornography activist from the Fern Creek area of Louisville who is helping organize the outing.

A man who identified himself as the Lion’s Den manager declined to give his name or to comment yesterday on the planned bus tour. He referred a reporter to a Web site to submit questions by e-mail to the Lion’s Den’s corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

Patterson said the bus trip will include testimonials and “undercover” information that the organization has obtained. He said it’s being modeled on a similar tour nearly four years ago for Louisville Metro Council members who were shown video stores, modeling salons and adult bookstores.

Patterson said that outing was effective in raising awareness about the businesses.

“Many people consider that (2003 tour) a big success” because several council members ultimately backed a revised adult-entertainment ordinance to toughen regulations, he said.

In Jackson County, officials discovered what other rural communities have found after an adult business moved in — that they had no ordinances in place to control it. Governments can’t ban sexually oriented businesses, but U.S. Supreme Court rulings have supported local authority to regulate the stores by limiting where they can operate.

Some communities have zoning regulations to prohibit adult businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and homes, for example. Restrictions are based on the grounds that adult businesses can increase crime and lower property values.

After the Lion’s Den’s owners showed up in Jackson County, its three commissioners tried to draft an ordinance quickly before the store’s August 2005 opening, but they couldn’t stop it. A case against the business is pending in Jackson Superior Court, claiming the intent of the store had been misrepresented.

Scott Bergthold, a Chattanooga, Tenn., lawyer who is representing the county and has assisted other local governments in opposing adult businesses, said in an interview that instead of being caught off guard, communities need to be prepared by drafting solid, court-tested ordinances before an adult store tries to move in.

Protesters outside the Lions’ Den yesterday vowed to keep showing up, passing out Bibles and posting pictures on an Internet Web site — www.war-line.com — of the store’s customers.

“Sink, swim, survive or perish, we’re here for the duration,” said Ray Owen, a former factory mechanic who lives nearby.

“Everything they do,” he said, pointing a thumb over his shoulder at the entrance to the store, “we’ll try to counter it.”

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