Topeka Customers at strip clubs in Kansas could still get booze but not lap dances under a bill endorsed Friday by a legislative committee to restrict sexually oriented businesses.
The House Federal and State Affairs Committee left most of the proposed “Community Defense Act” in place, including a “no touch” rule for employees and customers. It prohibits people from appearing intentionally “in a state of nudity” inside clubs, arcades, theaters, non-academic modeling studios, stores selling sex toys and other sexually oriented material and what the bill describes as “sexual encounter centers.”
The bill would require semi-nude dancers to remain at least 6 feet away from their customers, and it would require sexually oriented businesses to remain closed from midnight to 6 a.m. A new business couldn’t be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of an existing one or a school, library, day care center or house of worship.
But the committee balked at banning the sale of alcohol in such businesses, the one concession it made to owners and operators who said the rules would drive them out of business. The bill originally contained an alcohol ban, but members voted 13-6 to remove it.
“My concern is it wouldn’t necessarily drive them out of business but it would drive them underground,” Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, said of an alcohol ban.
Supporters of the bill contend they’re trying to combat social problems, such as crime and lower property values that come with sexually oriented businesses. They also said they’re trying to help small, rural communities that often don’t have the financial resources to fight adult businesses if those businesses want to file lawsuits over local ordinances.
Phillip Cosby, executive director of the Kansas City-area office of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, said the legislation endorsed by the committee is a good step toward protecting communities, though he’d hoped the alcohol ban would survive.
“It wasn’t a home run, but it was a triple. I can live with it,” said Cosby, a retired Army master sergeant from Overland Park who’s become a leading Kansas advocate of new restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. “Small towns are going to be looked after, and they will have the backing of the state.”
Critics of the legislation argue that said regulation of sexually oriented businesses is best left to cities and counties, noting some urban communities have good records in controlling them and their effects. Some legislators question taking time to deal with the issue when the state must close a projected $492 million budget shortfall.
“The Legislature is probably intruding in areas where we don’t need to be,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat. “We’ve got a lot more important things that we need to be dealing with here.”
Supporters expect the House to approve the measure. It passed a similar bill last year, only to watch the Senate reject it on a 20-20 vote. This year’s measure could face a similar fate.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen a whole lot of change,” said Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican.
In the House committee, banning alcohol at sexually oriented businesses inspired the most debate. Some committee members concluded that strip clubs and adult cabarets are the only ones like to sell alcohol anyway and said they aren’t trying to force them to close by denying them a big source of revenue.
Freshman Rep. Amanda Grosserode, a Lenexa Republican, compared the alcohol ban to the ban on smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars, approved by legislators last year. She said she would have opposed the smoking ban.
“The same will hold true for this,” she said. “No more will I vote to ban the consumption of alcohol in a certain type of establishment than I would have voted to ban smoking in any other form of establishment.”
But Rep. Joe Patton, a Topeka Republican and an attorney, said sexually oriented businesses already are “softer targets” for crime.
“It’s really clear from the studies that alcohol is a significant part of that dynamic,” he said.