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Siting Sex: Proposed Regulation of Adult Entertainment PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Tuesday, 13 February 2001 18:00
During last week’s council cycle, Davenport Adlermen Wayne Hean and Roland Caldwell introduced amendments to the city’s two ordinances that govern business licensing and zoning for adult entertainment. According to Alderman Hean, “The motivation behind these amendments has been to eradicate the ancillary criminal activities that tend to proliferate in neighborhoods where adult entertainment businesses are located, such as drug dealing and prostitution. ”

The ordinances are not without controversy and are meeting with objections from the private sector, especially those involved with running several of the 13 such enterprises in Davenport. The proposed new ordinances would move adult businesses out of retail classification into its own classification as “adult entertainment.” Seven different types of adult entertainment have been identified that would fall under the new jurisdiction, including adult cabaret, adult motel, adult store, adult theater, escort agency, nude model studio, and sexual encounter center.

The proposed licensing regulations would: require all adult entertainment employees to have identifications cards, which would only be issued after a background check for criminal activities; impose regulations on the structural layout of such establishments; require compliance with signage rules; and hold owners of adult businesses responsible for all acts or omissions that constitute a violation of the ordinances by an establishment’s employees.

The proposed zoning requirements would add cemeteries and public housing to the 1,000 foot distance limitation that governs where adult businesses can locate. The present ordinance forbids such establishments from locating within 1,000 feet of any residential property; a public or private school; a childcare facility; a church, synagogue, mosque, or religious facility or institution; and a public park including paths or trails.

Other regulations being considered include no doors on booths or rooms; no gambling within adult businesses; limiting cabaret licenses to 4 within city limits; more specific definition of “sexual encounter centers” and the associated activities; the inclusion of lingerie modeling as adult activity; and the definition of “the significant portion of the business” as 10 percent or more of income derived from the sale, viewing, rental, exchange of adult material, or 10 percent of the floor space or stock in trade dedicated to the display of adult material, or any performance in the nude.

Opponents of the proposed amendments as they were originally crafted claim that the ordinances are specifically discriminatory to women and violate their privacy rights. The issue surrounds the identification card, which, as written, would follow the individual holders for life. Aldermen Hean and Caldwell recognize the legitimate concern and compromised by including language that would cause documentation of the license to be automatically expunged from city records three years after expiration.

Suggestions made by the council after preliminary review of the proposed ordinances included Alderman Nickolas’ concern that taxpayers would be subsidizing the licensing of those in the adult business because a background check costs the police department $98, plus the cost of producing the license at approximately $5, making the total cost to the city over $100. He asked that any such costs be passed on to the applicant.

Ron Farkus, owner of Tuxedos, has requested that the licensing ordinance contain clauses allowing for special feature dancers who only appear intermittently, and for amateur night, when audience members are given an opportunity to strut their stuff, so to speak. Farkus also expressed concern over keeping restroom facilities locked during hours of operation, a condition he found cumbersome and not physically sensible in a club environment. The regulation was imposed as part of the effort to keep all rooms and booths open and accessible to curb illegal behavior. (This language appears to be warranted after a man was found dead in an adult booth at TR Video, where he was found only after his corpse began to produce an offensive odor.)

The aldermen are emphatic about not wanting to close any of the adult establishments, but to better control the businesses’ presence in an effort to eliminate the criminal activities that occur in the nearby vicinities. The council, in conjunction with the private sector, is currently working to encourage reinvestment and economic revitalization in downtown Davenport, especially relative to the gateway corridors of the city from Illinois, where many of the adult establishments are located.

Crime in the form of drug dealing and prostitution provides disincentive for such reinvestment and calls for a more holistic approach to solving the problems. Zoning and licensing in other communities provide a means to allow for adult establishments to continue, but also provides a more controlled and accountable environment in which to operate. Commitments by police departments and city administrations allow for enforcement of regulations, sending the message to criminals that certain activities will not be tolerated in our cities. But all such regulations need to pass muster relative to individual constitutional rights. As Alderman Hean explains, “Adult entertainment establishments are strictly regulated in Moline and East Moline, and are limited in Rock Island. So where in the Quad Cities is it easiest to locate? Obviously Davenport. It is not our intention to shut any business down or violate anyone’s First Amendment rights. By moving this ordinance forward, we are simply regulating the industry for public health and safety purposes through appropriate licensing and zoning.”

The council is reviewing the language of the proposed ordinances in the context of constitutionality and drafting regulations that should conform, while still providing a progressive means to plan for Davenport’s growth.

There was no small measure of indignation on Alderman Hean’s part when it was brought to the council’s attention that several websites exist that critique adult establishments world-wide. Davenport is specifically named, complete with luridly descriptive narratives of encounters and activities that can be expected from various providers when visiting—hardly the tourist attraction for which Davenport wants to be known.

But the process for bringing about change relative to the issue of adult entertainment and secondary crime activity has been diligently applied, beginning at the Public Safety Committee level that Alderman Hean chairs, moving forward to the Committee of the Whole, where the council sent the proposed ordinances back to the Public Safety Committee for further refinement. The various suggestions and concerns from the aldermen and the public appear to have been worked out and will be finalized on Thursday, February 15, during the next Public Safety Committee Meeting so that the ordinances can be reviewed in their entirety at next Monday’s Committee of the Whole session. Assuming the council has no further objections, the ordinances will be passed on to next Wednesday night’s regular council meeting, February 22, for a final vote.
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