By Joel Hall
The Forest Park City Council voted Thursday to enact a 30-day moratorium on the acceptance of permit applications for adult-entertainment establishments. During that time, the city will draft two separate versions of a new adult-entertainment ordinance for the city, one of which the council could adopt early next year.
The vote on the moratorium came during a special called meeting in which the council discussed the recent passage of a new adult ordinance. The ordinance, adopted on Monday, eases some of the restrictions on adult-entertainment establishments that were passed by the council in March.
While a federal lawsuit has been pending over the March ordinance, the restrictions have not been enforced.
In addition to restrictions on lighting, tipping, and lap dancing, the city's March ordinance bans full nudity and makes the sale of alcohol in strip clubs illegal after Jan. 1, 2010. Prior to Monday's vote on a new ordinance that would ease the tipping restriction, Councilwoman Debbie Youmans made a motion to remove sections of the ordinance under consideration which would forbid full nudity and alcohol consumption.
The motion was adopted and the new ordinance passed with a vote of 3-2 on Monday. City Manager John Parker, however, said the way in which Youmans' motion was adopted was confusing to some members of the council.
"The motion that was made at the previous meeting ... regarding adult entertainment was somewhat confusing," Parker said on Thursday. "At least one of the council members said they were confused and did not vote in a manor in which they thought they were voting."
City Attorney Robert Mack said the source of the confusion may have arisen from Youmans' use of the phrase "leave it in." He said some council members may have been confused as to whether Youmans' motion was to allow alcohol and nudity, or to leave in the sections of the ordinance which ban alcohol and nudity.
"There was a motion to adopt the new adult-entertainment ordinance and amend it to leave alcohol and nudity in," Mack said. "If I'm not mistaken, it [the motion] said 'in,' but it was supposed to be an 'out.' That's where the confusion came in. What does it mean to leave it in? Is that to take it out, exclude it, or keep it in, as is?
"We need to get together and figure it out," he continued. "Because of the confusion, we want to make sure everybody understands what they are voting on."
Mack said that during the city's moratorium on new adult-entertainment permits, city attorneys will draft two versions of a new adult ordinance -- one resembling the original ordinance proposed on Monday night and another reflecting Youmans' motions to allow nudity and alcohol consumption.
"We'll draft one that leaves in alcohol and nudity and [keep] the one that we have right now," Mack said. "We'll draft it two ways, so that the city can adopt the one they want."
Parker said a vote on the new ordinance might not take place until January or early February.
"The advertising [prior to the adoption of an ordinance] requires 15 days and it is going to be a few days before the language is crafted," he said. "We can't advertise until the language is crafted. We may even have to extend the moratorium. If we do, it will just be the minimum amount [of time] to get it back before the board again."
Councilwoman Linda Lord, who expressed confusion following Monday's vote on a new adult-entertainment ordinance, questioned Mack on Thursday as to whether a motion to amend an ordinance could be made prior to the ordinance's adoption. However, she said she was satisfied with the decision to reconsider the ordinance.
"We'll work at it with the attorneys," Lord said. "It will definitely be better than it was on Monday."
Youmans, who will not return to the council for another term after Dec. 31, said she believes the council will likely adopt a new version of the ordinance which bans alcohol and full nudity in strip clubs. However, she said she believes adopting those rules will make the city vulnerable to future lawsuits.
"I can see, now, where it could have been confusing, but my motion was to allow the clubs ... the adult entertainment [businesses] to continue to have alcohol and to continue to have nudity," Youmans said. "That is what I meant. I voted that way because it was in the best interest of the city."