Duluth might place new restrictions on strip clubsFuture enterprises looking to profit from adult entertainment soon may find Duluth a more difficult place in which to do business.
By: Peter Passl, Duluth News Tribune
Future enterprises looking to profit from adult entertainment soon may find Duluth a more difficult place in which to do business.
On Monday, the Duluth City Council is expected to consider amending the city code so that no new adult bookstores or strip clubs can open within 2,000 feet of a residential zone, church, school, public park, pedestrian plaza or other adult entertainment business. A grandfather clause would exempt existing businesses such as the Saratoga Club or Wabasha Book.
“I see this as tightening things up to prevent a future NorShor Experience,” said City Councilor Sharla Gardner, who introduced the amendment. From 2006 until the city purchased the building this month, the NorShor Theatre in Duluth’s Old Downtown operated as a venue for nude dancing, which Gardner contends was a poor fit with nearby housing for seniors and disabled people.
Randall Tigue, a Minneapolis attorney and former president of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, said he finds it odd that cities require such setbacks under the guise of protecting children.
“The Roman Catholic Church has paid out billions of dollars in damages for priests molesting children. That’s billions more than the adult entertainment industry ever has,” Tigue said. “If you wanted children separated from abusers, all the available evidence indicates they’re in far greater danger in close proximity to the Roman Catholic Church than they are near adult entertainment businesses.”
City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said other Minnesota cities have placed similar restrictions on adult entertainment businesses, pointing to Minneapolis, St. Peter, Rochester and Proctor.
“This ordinance, as drafted, is consistent with state law,” he said.
If adopted, Gardner predicts her proposal would reduce conflicts with neighbors.
“This ordinance change is not to prevent adult entertainment businesses from coming to Duluth but to regulate where they are, so they don’t do any harm to others,” she said.
But Tigue, who has represented many people in the adult entertainment industry, including the late NorShor Experience operator Jim Gradishar, dismissed such reassurances.
“The real reason these ordinances are written is to make it impossible for adult entertainment operations to locate anywhere in a community,” he said. “It’s about censorship.”
Tigue said challenges of ordinances have proven successful in instances where cities have left no practical way for adult entertainment businesses to enter the market.
But he said that more often than not, operators will simply rule out certain communities rather than put up a fight. And as a result, Tigue said: “These ordinances often have their intended effect.”
Another notable change in the proposed ordinance would require adult entertainment establishments in Duluth to be licensed. The fee for that proposed license has yet to be determined by the council, but Gardner said it could be in the $500 to $1,000 per year range.
She contends such a fee is justifiable, explaining: “Additional city safety services are often needed because of the nature of these kinds of businesses. This should offset some of the city’s costs.”
Gardner also has proposed that applicants for adult entertainment licenses should be deemed ineligible if the owner or manager of their establishment has been convicted of a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony sex or obscenity crime.
The Duluth News Tribune and the Echo Press are owned by Forum Communications Company.