'Exotic entertainment' ordinance expected to be adopted

June 25, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An ordinance regulating the location of "exotic entertainment" such as strip clubs is expected to be adopted next week by the Berkeley County Commission.

Commission legal counsel Norwood Bentley III on Thursday presented a slightly modified version of the exotic entertainment ordinance, which the commission had adopted in 2004, but was ruled invalid last year by a circuit judge.

The new ordinance, which was made possible by authorizing legislation passed by state lawmakers June 2, would not apply to adult bookstores, novelty shops and similar businesses unless the individuals inside were nude or semi-nude, Bentley said after Thursday's commission meeting.

New exotic entertainment clubs would be prohibited from being located within 2,000 feet of a church, school, public recreation area, lodging businesses, "a primarily residential area" or within 2,000 feet of another such adult business, according to a draft of the ordinance.


Senate Bill 1010, which was approved by the governor June 17, defines exotic entertainment as "live entertainment, dancing or other services conducted by persons while nude or seminude in a commercial setting or for profit."

Even with the new law, Bentley said the county still has little authority to regulate the location of sexually oriented retail businesses such as Sensual Nights in Bunker Hill, W.Va.

Formerly known as Slightly Sinful, the adult retail business opened in 2004 within 1,000 feet of Bunker Hill Elementary School.

The arrival of the shop sparked a groundswell of concern by area residents, who pushed county leaders to adopt an ordinance restricting the location of such businesses.

Bentley had advised county leaders then they didn't have the authority to adopt an ordinance restricting the location of exotic entertainment without a zoning ordinance, but they did it anyway.

The county's exotic entertainment ordinance remained on the books until last year, when it successfully was challenged in circuit court by a "bring your own beverage" strip club that opened in Bunker Hill.

Paradise City Gentleman's Club is one of at least eight strip clubs in Berkeley County, according to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (ABCA) and the Berkeley County Health Department. Gary Robinson, an ABCA spokesman, said in an interview there were at least 53 strip clubs that have a license from the ABCA to serve alcohol statewide.

Existing exotic entertainment businesses would not be affected by the new state law.

Bentley said a public hearing for the new ordinance was not needed because the modifications he has proposed only are technical changes to the 2004 ordinance.

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