So ... What's New With Strip Clubs?

RENO, Nev.—For a city whose main sources of income are tourists and gambling, it might seem surprising that the Reno City Council voted last week to create new ordinances that would have the effect of forcing downtown strip clubs and similar adult venues into industrial areas of the city within five years. In the meantime, council staff will be busy writing ordinances that would ban digital outdoor signs at the clubs within six months, and ban the sale of alcohol at clubs that are "improperly zoned." (In all, there are six clubs, one bookstore and one video store, and just one of the clubs, Show Girls on Telegraph Street, is properly zoned for adult.)

The council vote apparently accomplished more than Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilwoman Neoma Jardon had wanted. Yes, Jardon had wanted sexually oriented businesses out of the downtown area, but she opposed forcing existing clubs to move—but that sort of censorship easily gets out of control, and the rest of the council passed the ban, allegedly as part of an effort to revitalize the downtown area. Jardon had made it known that she didn't see enough data to determine whether the clubs posed a safety concern, but that view was in the minority.

"It's a new day in Reno," Councilwoman Naomi Duerr told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Part of the council's impetus for the ban was the city attorney's office, which thoughtfully provided the councilmembers with a sheaf of so-called "secondary effects studies," most of which have been thoroughly debunked by sociologist Dan Linz—but that debunking was not provided to the council, nor did the council have anyone perform a study of the effects of local adult businesses on the community. In fact, according to the Gazette-Journal, Deputy City Attorney Chandeni Sendall argued that "courts have already upheld the secondary effects doctrine and that local police data doesn't necessarily reflect the actual criminal activity that may occur in and around local strip clubs."

Also, one councilmember, Jenny Brekhus, stated that the city had sent its own undercover private investigator into some of the strip clubs, and told the council that, "What I got from it was there were observations of a lot of these secondary effects you are talking about, the victimization of patrons, the victimization of employees and activity rising to a criminal level." However, despite that "investigation," no charges were brought against any club, owner or patron, and when Brekhus asked City Attorney Karl Hall to provide more details of the report, he refused, citing "attorney-client privilege," although that "client" is arguably the citizens of Reno, or at least their representatives, the city council.

But what may have had the most influence on the council was the fact that dozens of residents, including "mothers, mental health professionals, business owners and economic development officials," filled the council chamber, clamoring for passage of the bill, with 16 in favor and just nine people speaking in opposition. One was local resident Jim Galloway, who pleaded, "Please vote no and allow an old man some occasional harmless adult entertainment."

Meanwhile, in Mobile, Ala., a downtown club/hookah lounge named X-CITE on busy Dauphin Street recently began advertising for "exotic dancers" on its Facebook page, and labeled itself an "upscale gentlemen's club." That didn't sit very well with local officials because the area around the club is filled with restaurants, bars, and retail stores, and "adult entertainment" is barred from the area.

"Under our code, you have to be a certain distance away from parks, from schools, from churches,” Laura Byrne, director of communications for the Mayor Stimpson administration, told Fox10-TV.

But X-CITE's general manager LaTausha Taylor rejected the idea that X-CITE is an adult business.

"We never represented ourselves to the public as an adult entertainment strip club," she said. "We are a legitimate business. We have all applicable licenses. We are not a strip club and our dancers dance in bikinis and swimsuits. They don't show any private parts. We are doing it in a classy way."

In any case, X-CITE has put a hold on dancing in the establishment while the controversy continues, and city officials have asked the club for a detailed report of its operations while it considers the matter.

Finally, there's the situation that East Dubuque, Ill., located on the Mississippi River just where Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin meet, finds itself in. The recession has been hard on everyone, and apparently especially so for the roughly 1,600 residents of East Dubuque—so one city councilmember came up with a unique idea.

"At one time there were like 38 bars on the main street, between bars, clubs, and adult entertainment," long-time resident Michael Giellis told KWWL-TV7, and in light of that fact, councilmember Adam Arling had an idea: Bring back the adult businesses!

Of course, Illinois state law bars such businesses within 1,000 feet of a park, school, forest preserve, public housing, cemetery, or place of worship, so that pretty much scotches that idea—or does it?

Arling told KWWL that he's trying to understand where the state draws the line, arguing that bringing back adult entertainment would be a good source of revenue for East Dubuque. For example, he questioned whether a restaurant like Hooters, which features fully clothed, big-breasted waitresses, would be prohibited? The station also heard from multiple business owners who wanted to remain anonymous but who said they'd like to see the foot traffic strip clubs would possibly bring.

Of course, other residents—the "family-friendly" crowd—oppose any move in that direction, and Mayor Daniel Welp, who noted that a local ordinance also prohibits the strip clubs, said, "Ain't gonna happen."

"I'd like to see 'em do something to bring the town back some life," suggested Giellis.