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August 27, 2009

Mineral tightens strip club rules

New ordinance restricts business locations, requires $500 permit fee

KEYSER, W.Va. — Mineral County officials still can’t keep 18 year olds from going to strip clubs, but they can — and will — regulate where sexually oriented businesses set up shop.

After a several-year struggle to have some control over adult entertainment, commissioners approved an ordinance Tuesday that restricts adult businesses from locating within 2,500 feet of a school, church or residential area.

Berkeley and Morgan counties approved similar ordinances earlier this summer.

Mineral County’s ordinance, which also requires potential business owners to pay $500 for a permit, “isn’t substantively different” from a previous ordinance that was thrown out by the state Supreme Court in 2006, said Wayne Spiggle, commission president.

But the law is different now.

The West Virginia Legislature amended state law this year so that all counties — even those with planning commissions, like Mineral — can regulate the location of sexually-oriented businesses.

“This is simply a replacement,” said Mike Bland, Mineral County coordinator. “It’s a little broader in that it covers some additional types of exotic entertainment not in the other ordinance.”

But for some, including Spiggle, the new ordinance doesn’t go far enough.

“I think it ignores one of the most troublesome aspects of this business, the use of alcohol while taking part in erotic entertainment,” said Spiggle, who is leading an effort to seek state legislation to separate the two. “It may be a constitutional right to view nude performers but there is no constitutional right to drink alcohol while doing so.”

Other commissioners say the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has control over that issue.

In 2003, Mineral County officials tried to shut down Legz, the county’s largest gentlemen’s club because it admitted patrons under age 21. A federal judge ruled that the county had overstepped its bounds, declaring its ordinance unconstitutional because it violated free speech.

Contact Kristin Harty at kharty@times-news.com.



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