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Unger recommends alcohol restrictions to fight strip clubs

November 22, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commissioners said Thursday they would support an effort to strengthen anti-pornography laws in West Virginia.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said some governments trying to disallow nude dancing are getting around constitutional issues about freedom of expression by enacting laws that forbid serving alcohol where strippers perform.

They take that approach because strip bars make their money from selling drinks, using the strippers to draw in customers, Unger said.

"We can't outlaw strip bars, but we can say that alcohol can't be served on the premises," Unger told the commissioners during their morning meeting.

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Unger said word is out that if you want to go to a strip bar, go to West Virginia.

"It's become ridiculous," he said.

The issue came up because the Monongalia (W.Va.) County Commission sent the Berkeley County Commissioners a letter asking for their support in securing a state obscenity bill.

Berkeley County Attorney Norwood Bentley said the legal definition of obscenity has made it difficult to regulate strip bars effectively.

Commissioner John E. Wright wanted to know if the West Virginia Legislature has the power to enact a state obscenity bill that doesn't grandfather in existing strip bars.

Unger said he believed so, but said past efforts to get a state obscenity law haven't succeeded because the bills haven't gotten out of committee.

Wright said there are eight to 10 strip bars in Berkeley County.

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