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McDonough gets tougher on adult entertainment

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The City of McDonough recently amended its existing ordinance dealing with adult entertainment to confine the businesses to a certain area, as well as restrict what goes on inside the establishments.

Amending the ordinance was a task no one enjoyed, said City Councilman Wayne Smith on Wednesday. "Simply put, this is something no one on the council wants to deal with," he said. "We don't want it in our community, and at the same time, it is basically a result of decisions federal judges have made that classifies and protects those establishments under free speech."

The main provision of the revised measure, said Councilman Monta Brown, regulates where such businesses are allowed to operate. "We've had moratoriums on adult establishments for some time now," he said. "You can't have a perpetual moratorium. It's been long enough to where we're approaching our legal limit."

The revised ordinance restricts adult-entertainment businesses to parcels of land zoned M-1 (Light Industrial) or M-2 (Heavy Industrial), on the east side of Industrial Boulevard, from 100 feet south of Ga. Highway 20/81, to 100 feet north of Ga. Highway 155.

Such establishments are also restricted to any parcel zoned M-1 or M-2 on Park West Drive, according to the ordinance.

"City staff are instructed to accept and process any application tendered for an adult entertainment business proposed on any site meeting those limitations, pending any necessary revisions to the zoning ordinance," the ordinance states.

It also lists 18 regulations governing conduct on the premises of adult-entertainment businesses:

* One states: "No person shall serve, offer, consume or be in possession of any alcoholic beverage on the premises of an adult entertainment facility, or in any parking area dedicated to use of an adult entertainment facility."

* Another says: "No person shall offer adult entertainment and no patron shall be or remain on the premises of any adult entertainment facility except between the hours of 11 a.m., and 2 a.m., Monday through Friday; Saturday, from 11 a.m., through 12 a.m., on Sunday; and Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m., and 12 midnight."

* Another regulation states: "No person under the age of 18 years shall be permitted on the premises of an adult entertainment facility."

* Another provision says: "No patron shall touch, fondle any employee, nor shall any employee touch, fondle or caress any patron."

* Another states: "No patron shall place any tip or gratuity upon the person of any employee or in the clothing of any employee, and no employee shall permit any tip or gratuity to be placed on their person or in their clothing by a patron."

* Yet another provision says: "All dancing by adult entertainers at adult entertainment facilities shall occur on a fixed stage. No part of any live performance of adult entertainment shall take place other than in an area generally accessible to all patrons. No person who performs live adult entertainment shall leave a fixed stage during any performance, dance or demonstration."

Much of the discussion on the ordinance took place during the city council's workshop on June 3. Councilman Brown suggested that the ordinance set aside at least two areas where the adult entertainment businesses should be confined.

"Since I've been on the council, we've had a moratorium on this ordinance, and I think there's been several threats of litigation if we don't pass this ordinance," said Brown. "In restricting [them] to that area, Industrial Boulevard, I've expressed all along that it's not going to address the amount of space that we have. I think that we're going to end up spending a lot of taxpayers' money in litigation."

Interim City Attorney Steve Fincher advised council members that the current ordinance already prohibits alcohol at adult entertainment businesses, which prompted Councilwoman Gail Notti to say that she supports the continued ban of alcohol at such establishments. "If we legally can do it, and it can be upheld in court, what's the problem?" she asked her colleagues.

Councilwoman Sandra Vincent said she disagreed with the ban on alcohol. "I think I would be comfortable in removing the prohibition piece, and just having it govern itself around what our current laws are in the city, as it relates to other establishments," said Vincent.

Fincher told the council that adult-entertainment ordinances are handled differently, depending on the local governing body. "From a philosophical standpoint, some jurisdictions are hospitable to adult entertainment establishments, because it's vital to the tourist industry," said Fincher. "Some locations are very inhospitable. Some prohibit total nudity, and most prohibit alcohol. If you travel around the country, most of the strip clubs are juice bars. Your existing ordinance was fairly restrictive."

Some of council members asked for more time to review the new ordinance, and to postpone a vote Fincher, however, advised against delaying a decision. "We need to settle this tonight," he said. "Out of abundance of caution, we need to amend it, and amend it now."

Fincher declined further comment on Wednesday.