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Adult clubs may be banned from selling alcohol
Gainesville considers plan to pull drink licenses when businesses change hands
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If a proposed adult entertainment ordinance passes, Gainesville's sole adult entertainment business won't be able to serve alcohol under an ownership change.

The new ordinance, presented at a City Council meeting Tuesday, would require The Top of Gainesville — or any future adult entertainment business — to apply for a new license should the adult dancing establishment have any changes in ownership or partners.

Employees of those businesses would also have to submit to a criminal history check once per year.

For years, adult entertainment businesses have not been permitted to serve alcohol, but The Top of Gainesville, located off Atlanta Highway, has been able to continue serving alcohol because it held an alcoholic beverage license before the current ordinance was enacted.

When the business recently added a partner, however, the city's code gave city officials no clear guidance on how to proceed with the business' alcoholic beverage ordinance, City Marshal Debbie Jones said after Tuesday's meeting.

City officials sought to change the ordinance to clear up any ambiguity and found they needed to make other extensive modifications to make it more legally defensible, said attorney Bill Linkous, who worked with the city on the changes.

The new ordinance will see an up or down vote next month.

Adult entertainment businesses include dancing establishments; stores that sell books, magazines or videotapes depicting sexual activities; and theaters or arcades that show films of a sexual nature.

Such businesses are protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but can be regulated by local and state officials as long as the regulations are "content neutral."

In his address to the council Tuesday morning, Linkous said the council's new ordinance would be based upon studies and previous court rulings that support regulation of adult businesses and show possible negative secondary effects of those businesses.

The studies and court rulings are documented at the beginning of the ordinance, and make the city's regulation of those industries more legally defensible, Linkous said.

Among other changes, the new rules could require the business to submit a list of its current employees to the city once each month and for those employees to apply for a $50 permit to work in the establishment annually.

Currently, a dancer's permit does not expire.

The proposed rules require adult businesses to have bright interior lights, prohibit use of private rooms and mandate that dancers perform on a pedestal that is raised 2 feet off the ground, making it easier for police to spot illegal activity, said Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly.

Council members, for the most part, said little about the proposed changes Tuesday. Mayor Ruth Bruner told those present at the meeting that the council had a "very thorough briefing" at a work session last week.

The council will hold its first public hearing on the issue at its Sept. 7 council meeting, followed by an initial vote. The ordinance will receive its final vote Sept. 21.

Councilman George Wangemann said he will likely vote in favor of the new ordinance, because, in his opinion, the new rules are much more stringent than the old.

"If I had my way, I'd rule them out of existence," Wangemann said. "We can't do that based on Supreme Court rulings."

 

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