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Berkeley Co. OKs 'exotic entertainment' ordinance

July 02, 2009

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An ordinance regulating the location of "exotic entertainment" such as strip clubs will take effect Monday in Berkeley County.

The Berkeley County Commission on Thursday unanimously approved the law, which was a slightly modified version of the "exotic entertainment" ordinance that commissioners adopted in 2004. That law was deemed invalid last year by a circuit judge.

While the new ordinance will not force any of Berkeley County's eight existing strip clubs to close, the complete "transfer of ownership or control" of such a business or revocation of business or alcohol licenses held by club owners could eliminate the exemption they have to operate under the new law, legal counsel Norwood Bentley III confirmed Thursday evening.

The grandfather exemption would be preserved if the ownership transfer of such a business happens upon bequest or similar operation of law upon the death of the owner(s) or controlling interest, Bentley confirmed.

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An existing club damaged by fire or another "unforeseen act" could rebuild, but only replace what was lost by a structure that is "reasonably similar, or smaller, in size as measured in square footage," according to the ordinance.

The new law also would not apply to adult bookstores, novelty shops and similar businesses unless the individuals inside were nude or semi-nude, Bentley has said.

New clubs would be prohibited from locating within 2,000 feet of a house of worship, school, public recreation area, lodging businesses, "a primarily residential area" or within 2,000 feet of another such adult business, according to the ordinance.

State law now defines "exotic entertainment" as "live entertainment, dancing or other services conducted by persons while nude or seminude in a commercial setting or for profit."

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