Violations uncovered at Louisville strip clubs

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When Louisville metro's new adult entertainment ordinance went into effect almost three months ago, the city promised to enforce it. The ordinance requires dancers to cover up and imposes strict rules on club owners. But our undercover investigation uncovered violation after violation inside those clubs.

The ordinance was supposed to cool down what goes on inside these hot spots for gentlemen. It sets up boundaries and keeps dancers covered, on an 18 inch elevated stage, six feet away from customers.

But we found semi-nude dancers still performing on poles with patrons peering on just inches away or sometimes even closer than that. Lap dances were being advertised: two for $40. Customers were tipping the semi-nude dancers, which is also not allowed under the ordinance.

We showed our video to MaryAnn Gramig with ROCK: Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana.

"No attempt to comply with the distance requirements. I'm disappointed but not surprised," Gramig said.

During her five years with the organization she worked to get this ordinance on the books.

"So it's discouraging. Certainly doesn't appear to be a club concerned with enforcement," Gramig said.

Jim Mims is in charge of enforcing the ordinance. The city's director of Codes and Regulations says it's a process that has to be tackled in phases.

"We're dead serious about enforcing this ordinance," Mims said.

During the first round of enforcement, inspectors cited several clubs for not being licensed as adult businesses. Next he says they'll focus in on other violations, like nude dancing, tipping, touching, and what goes in back rooms.

The ordinance also requires adult businesses to close at 1 a.m. and no more alcohol once their licenses expire. Every club we went to was still open until 4 a.m. and still serving up alcohol.

"Those are the things that we're working on. It's a work in progress, but I can assure we are very serious about enforcing this ordinance," Mims said.

Louisville lawyer Frank Mascagni has been fighting this ordinance for years. He represents several clubs in town.

"We're going to spend 100s of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money enforcing a buffer zone, a dance zone. Are you kidding me?" Mascagni said.

He said enforcing the ordinance is a delicate dance, and there are still some big problems.

"We're all in Candy Land. We don't know how to enforce certain parts of the legislation. What is an "it"? When is "it" covered; when is it not? When is it obscene? When is it not obscene?" Mascagni asked.

One way businesses might get around the law is by covering up just enough to not even have to register as an adult entertainment business and re-inventing themselves, and evolving into a bikini bar.

"If my girls wear a bikini at Dunkin Donuts is that okay, or are they adult entertainment?" Mascagni questioned. "Individual judges will have to decide as early as June what certain words in the ordinance mean."

Despite all the debate and blurred lines, there's one area that's pretty clear.

"This is a tough one for enforcement. It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy," Gramig said.

Last spring the Kentucky Supreme court gave the city the green light to start enforcing the ordinance, but the court battles aren't over. Several hearings before a judge are set for this summer on the ordinance and the citations that have been issued.

Violations cost anywhere from $100 to $1000, but Mims said his department is not afraid to shut down clubs that continue to break the law.

Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.