Missouri Judge Tosses Challenge to Onerous Strip Club Law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.—Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem last week tossed a constitutional challenge to a state law enacted in 2010 that imposed sweeping restrictions on adult businesses in the state. Despite the ruling, which was anticipated, adult bookstore and club owners say they will appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, where they figured it would end up anyway.

"This is what we expected," said Dick Snow, owner of Bazooka Show Girls in Kansas City, in an e-mail to The Pitch. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Dick Bryant, sais he would appeal the ruling within 30 days.

According to the Kansas City Star, “A trial had been scheduled for next week to decide the lawsuit. But Judge Jon Beetem instead ruled in favor of a motion for summary judgment by the state attorney general’s office, which defends state laws in court. The judgment threw out the case and assessed legal fees to the club owners and retailers who brought it.”

As AVN reported last August, among other restrictions the law prohibits full nudity and the serving of alcohol, forces semi-nude dancers to remain on a stage and at least six feet from patrons—rendering lap dances impossible—prohibits closed-door booths for the viewing of movies, requires that patrons remain within the clear view of employees, and mandates that adult businesses close by midnight.

The language of the law, which was pushed though the state legislature by its main sponsor and proponent, former Republican state senator Matt Bartle, is virtually identical to that contained in a law passed in Ohio in 2007. According to Angelina Spencer, executive director of the trade group Association of Club Executives, legislatures in Kansas, Tennessee and West Virginia have this year proposed similar bills.

Spencer told the Columbia Daily Tribune that these laws represent a slippery slope threat to free speech in all of these states, and that the censorship of erotic speech “will eventually trickle down to other forms of art, media, journalism.”

The direct impact of Missouri’s law has been immediate, however.

“Businesses have remained open since the laws went into effect,” the Star reported, “but owners say traffic and sales have plummeted.”