Clarksville bolsters adult business regulations

There are currently two adult businesses in town

Clarksville bolsters adult business regulations
In November, Theatair X's license was briefly suspended in part due to alleged zoning code violations pertaining to openings between private viewing booths. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

By APRILE RICKERT

CLARKSVILLE, In. (NEWS AND TRIBUNE) - The Clarksville Town Council has taken steps to strength enforcement of regulations when it comes to adult businesses through an updated ordinance.

At its Tuesday meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve repealing and adopting a general ordinance related to regulations of such businesses within the town, seeking to prevent what the ordinance states is "negative secondary effects" of sexually oriented businesses.

The new legislation replaces a similar 2005 ordinance, which has been largely dormant since being struck down by a judge in 2010 when the court found that it hadn't been enacted properly because it include language about location.

The town has since updated zoning codes to include regulations on the land use of adult businesses, and Tuesday's ordinance has omitted references to location.

"It makes it a stronger, more up-to-date ordinance," said Scott Bergthhold, a Tennessee-based attorney who recently joined local attorney Greg Fifer in representing the town and the Clarksville Building Commissioner in an appeals case filed by adult bookstore Theatair X.

Though some of the regulations are listed in town zoning codes, Fifer said the general ordinance is “stronger than the zoning ordinance from a police power standpoint, whereas the zoning ordinance just regulates the land uses,” he said following the meeting.

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The new 14-page ordinance includes hours of operation, and regulations such as that a manager must at all times be able to have a clear line of sight to every place in the businesses where patrons can be, except bathrooms. This, the legislation states, is to ensure no illegal sexual activity takes place on the premises.

It also includes more than a page of case law supporting the town's decision.

"The town council finds sexually oriented businesses ... are associated with a wide variety of adverse secondary effects including but not limited to personal and property crimes, human trafficking, prostitution, potential spread of disease, lewdness, public indecency, obscenity, illicit drug use and drug trafficking, negative impacts on surrounding properties, urban blight, litter and sexual assault and exploitation," it reads, in part.

"Each of the foregoing negative secondary effects constitutes a harm which the Town has a substantial government interest in preventing and/or abating..."

Council members A.D. Stonecipher, Jennifer Voignier expressed words of support prior to the unanimous vote, encouraging their fellow council members to affirm the changes.

"I see a lot of improved ability for us to prevent any human sex trafficking," Stonecipher said.

The new legislation regulates places like Theatair X in Clarksville and replaces a similar 2005 ordinance.
The new legislation regulates places like Theatair X in Clarksville and replaces a similar 2005 ordinance. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

At the meeting Clarksville resident and Libertarian Town Council candidate Russell Brooksbank voiced his opposition to the "recent hearings and code changes," which he said have been attempts by the town to target and ultimately close Theatair X.

"I support the right for such businesses to exist; I also support the right of citizens to purchase what they are selling," he said. "I am a Christian, but I do not believe that Jesus would want me to use the force of government in order to force my morality on someone else."

In May, the business filed a court appeal in Clark County after the Clarksville Town Council voted to uphold a license suspension brought on by the town's building commissioner, Rick Barr.

Barr filed his notice of intent to revoke the business license in February, after four people were charged with various sexual acts in the theater. Barr's notice included that the business had had a previous suspension within the prior 12 months.

In November, Theatair X's license was briefly suspended in part due to alleged zoning code violations pertaining to openings between private viewing booths.

The appeal requests that the revocation be vacated or remanded back to the council for a new hearing, and that damages be awarded to the business for constitutional violations.

Theatair X attorneys said the suspension was invalid, because the operators were not properly notified.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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