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Southampton tightens rules on adult businesses

March 15, 2000|By DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - The Southampton Township Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed an ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses, but the attorney for an adult bookstore said the restriction on hours of operations and other provisions could result in a lawsuit.

Supervisors Paul E. Witter, Linda J. Coover and Samuel Cressler voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, which requires licensing for the owners and employees of adult bookstores, theaters, arcades, escort agencies, nude modeling studios or other sexually oriented businesses.

"The appropriate thing to do at this time is table the matter," Jeremy A. Rosenbaum said before the vote. The Cleveland, Ohio, attorney, was representing Pennsylvania Pride Inc., owner of the Lion's Den, one of two businesses in the township covered by the ordinance.

"We have no adult performers, no video arcade," said Rosenbaum. He told the council the ordinance was contrary to state law regulating adult bookstores.

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Rosenbaum said the township did not have the power to regulate hours of operation. The Lion's Den is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the ordinance will restrict hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and require them to be closed on Sundays and federal and state holidays.

He asked the supervisors to put off the vote "before you pass a law that may well be subject to litigation again." Rosenbaum said his clients are trying to recover $30,000 in legal fees from a previous lawsuit in federal court.

"I find it somewhat troublesome that ... it would not be until the day before the meeting that we received some kind of correspondence" asking for a meeting between the parties, said Patrick J. Redding, one of the township's attorneys. Rosenbaum said he had been unable to make contact by telephone.

Redding said after the meeting that sections of a previous ordinance regulating adult businesses had been ruled unconstitutional in federal court after a challenge by The Lion's Den. He said the township had hired a specialist in such law to help draft the new ordinance.

"Let them alone. They're only going to take you through court again," township resident Cyrus Ulsh said during the public hearing before the vote. "All you're doing is giving them publicity."

Ulsh said the money spent on legal fees would be better spent on recreation programs for children.

"We do think of our children. That's why we're picketing out there," said township resident Paul Farkas.

Off Exit 9 of Interstate 81, the Lion's Den and another business, Silk Stockings, have been picketed for years by Shippensburg Citizens Rallying Against Pornography, or SCRAP.

"I think it's time we go ahead and do what the people want," said John Breneman, another township resident.

Under the ordinance, all existing sexually oriented businesses and employees must be licensed within six months to be in compliance. A license can be denied to a business owner or employee convicted of "specified criminal activity" including prostitution, possession or distribution of child pornography, sexual assault, gambling and other crimes.

The ordinance requires criminal background checks and "an infectious plan to protect employees and the public from bodily fluids of infectious contamination."

There will be a $500 application and investigation fee for a license, an annual $200 license renewal fee and a $50 application and investigation fee for employee licenses, according to the ordinance. Any violation listed in the 29-page ordinance is subject to a fine of up to $500.

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