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Gainesville council to air changes to adult industry
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City Council meeting

When: 9 a.m. today
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville
More info: View the agenda

Residents and business owners in Gainesville will have a chance this morning to hear about changes the City Council plans to make to its rules for adult entertainment businesses.

The changes will be open to public comment next month before the council takes final action.

For nearly a month, the city has had a moratorium on new permits for adult entertainment businesses while city officials decide what to do with the rules pertaining to them.

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.

In Gainesville, The Top of Gainesville, a dancing establishment, is the only permitted adult entertainment business.

Its owner did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

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.

City Marshal Debbie Jones says the current rules make the businesses harder to regulate.

Owners and employees of adult entertainment businesses are regulated somewhat like owners and employees of businesses that serve alcohol in Gainesville: A criminal history could preclude one’s ability to obtain a permit.

But with an employee whose permit never expires, Jones says city officials won’t know about any new convictions.

“Realistically, someone could work there six to eight weeks, leave and go away for three years and come right back and pick up employment and we would never know what if anything they may have been charged with in that interim time,” Jones said. “This way, a new criminal history is run every time they renew.”

The new ordinance also makes the city’s regulation of adult entertainment businesses more legally defensible, said Bill Linkous, an attorney with Freeman, Mathis & Gary, who helped the city rewrite its ordinance.

Since adult entertainment businesses are protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, city officials must show that they have studied how such businesses could have negative secondary effects and use their findings to build the ordinance, Linkous said.

Linkous will present those studies at today’s meeting.

“The goal is not to ban these entertainment establishments but to regulate the negative secondary effects,” Linkous said.

Other changes include how licenses to operate such businesses will be transferred in the case of a change in ownership or partnership. They also create regulations for adult bookstores.

“There was no clear defined instruction in the old ordinance as to how to address that,” Jones said.

The presentation on the ordinance is scheduled near the end of this morning’s City Council meeting at the Georgia Mountains Center. There will be two public hearings on the issue on Sept. 7 and Sept. 21, according to City Clerk Denise Jordan.