Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 22, 2013

Council may tighten strip club rules

Dancers may be required to get a license from city.

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— Adult entertainers may soon have to purchase licenses to ply their trade if the Kokomo Common Council moves ahead on a proposed ordinance.

Council members will meet Monday to discuss licensing and other measures which might be used to further regulate the city’s strip clubs, Councilman Bob Cameron, D-2nd, confirmed.

“We’ll test the waters. We’re going to try something,” Cameron said.

Prior to recent developments, Kokomo had six active strip clubs, which put the city first among Indiana cities in terms of strip clubs per capita.

One of those clubs, Tease, is currently operating as a bar without adult entertainment after the city issued a zoning violation against the club owners, who are contesting the issue in court.

Another club, Fantasy Girls, is temporarily closed after city officials declared the building unsafe.

Cameron said he would prefer to have all the clubs gone, and said other council members share that opinion.

“I personally would like to see something like what happened 30 years ago, when we had those adult bookstores, and all the church leaders and their congregations protested along the curb and took pictures of the people going into the stores,” said Cameron. “[The store owner] ended up closing his stores and leaving.”

Councilwoman Cindy Sanders, R-5th, has been a proponent of requiring individual licenses for adult entertainers, something King said one town in Indiana currently does. Kokomo would be the second, if the council moves in that direction.

At a December council meeting, Sanders said she felt licensing could help reduce the amount of human trafficking going on at strip clubs.

Don Draper, owner of the Hiphugger strip club, said the human trafficking claim was ludicrous.

“Good God, I’ve been here 45 years, and there’s never been any human trafficking,” said Draper. “I wouldn’t even know what that is. In Kokomo, Indiana? You’ve got to be joking.”

“It’s just like everything else, they’re just always trying to find some way to tax you, and to find some way to get in everybody’s life.”

At the council’s behest, council attorney Corbin King gathered model ordinances from around the state that deal with various regulations on adult businesses.

King said the courts have already dealt with test cases on the issue.

“If you meet certain requirements, the courts say it’s OK. If you don’t, then it’s going to be unconstitutional,” said King.

Any city requiring licenses must grant them in a prompt manner and must allow court appeals of license denials. In other words, cities can’t simply require adult entertainers to be licensed and then refuse to issue licenses.

In December, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight offered a limited endorsement of the council’s initiative.

“Anything we can do to improve that image, whether it be investment in parks and thoroughfares and education attainment level and also cleaning up anything that we think tarnishes that image, I’m going to at least hear out,” Goodnight told Indiana Public Media. “And if you make a good case, we’ll proceed.”

The council’s Health and Safety Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. in the first floor conference room of Kokomo City Hall, 100 S. Union St. Strip club regulations will be the only agenda item, Cameron said.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.