Lawrence city commissioners approved changes to a proposed ordinance that would place strict regulations on nude entertainment businesses in Lawrence, and the action could force a juice bar featuring nude dancing out of business.
Commissioners won't consider adopting the ordinance until next month, but Jeff Wallace, owner of the Juicers non-alcohol bar in North Lawrence, said he could see the writing on the wall.
"They're trying to regulate me out of business," Wallace said. "If they pass it the way it is written now, they'll have a fight on their hands. If they pass it the way it is, we'll take it to the Supreme Court if we have to. The ordinance is unconstitutional."
The proposed ordinance -- written by an assistant to the city manager and adjusted by commissioners during Tuesday night's meeting -- would immediately affect Wallace's establishment, which opened with nude dancing in April at 913 N. Second.
The city's current nudity ban applies only to businesses that serve alcohol; Juicers sells soft drinks, fruit juices and water.
According to the proposed ordinance, all adult entertainment businesses would be regulated through locations, licensing fees, police background checks, stage specifications and age, business-hours and no-touching restrictions.
The ordinance would not affect nude modeling for Kansas University art classes, movies at Liberty Hall or explicit rock bands at the Bottleneck, said David Corliss, assistant to the city manager.
Only actions intended to "arouse or excite the sexual desires" of employees or customers -- through talking, singing, reading, modeling, listening or even pantomiming -- would prompt regulations, he said.
The intent is to prevent potentially damaging secondary effects such as alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution and organized crime, Corliss said.
"You're not regulating so much the expression, as you are the context of that expression," said Corliss, who also is a lawyer.
Ron Pope, an attorney representing Juicers, said the First Amendment protected nudity as a form of expression. After the meeting, he said nude dancing was simply "entertainment," and not intended to arouse or excite anyone.
Pope took exception with several of the ordinance's provisions: limiting customers to those over age 21, banning intoxicated people from entering the bar and holding the business owner responsible for those who drink in the business' parking lot.
Each either is unfair or unconstitutional, he said.
"Frankly, it would appear to me that the city is on a witch hunt," he said.
Commissioner Bob Schulte said the ordinance wasn't necessarily aimed at Juicers, but he didn't hide his feelings about such businesses.
"There's no question in my mind that we will not be better off to have this kind of business," he said. "I think we should do what we can do."
Commissioner Bob Moody said banning nudity outright likely would cost too much money in legal fees if the ordinance were challenged in court.
"If we regulate it, we can pretty much have the same effect," Moody said.
The proposed ordinance would require several annual licenses: $500 for the business, $50 for a manager, $50 for each entertainer and $50 for servers.
Police Chief Ron Olin also would conduct background checks on owners and employees -- all to be fingerprinted and photographed for police records.
Sexually oriented entertainment businesses would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of any school, church, child-care center, city park, residential district, other sexually-oriented business or alcohol-serving business -- whether it's a bar, restaurant or package liquor store.
Fifteen members of the public addressed the commission during Tuesday's meeting on the issue.
James Richie, 2012 Atchison Ave., said he'd sent two daughters to KU, and didn't want any women subjected to work as nude dancers.
"Somebody's daughter is going to be on that stage, and I can't imagine the hurt of a father walking into a place like that, and having their daughter being made a spectacle like that," said Richie, a retired Army officer.
Cynthia Evans, 746 Conn., had been watching the meeting at home on television before coming to city hall. The First Amendment protects the voices of minorities, she said, and restricting nudity could lead to restriction of other freedoms.
"I'm worried about my other rights," she said.