Missouri's tough rules for adult businesses are constitutional, court rules

Missouri’s tough restrictions on adult entertainment will soon spread across the country, anti-pornography activists predicted Tuesday, now that the state’s Supreme Court has decided the stronger rules are constitutional.

“Missouri has set the standard for the nation,” said Phillip Cosby, director of the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri. “The gold standard.”

Former state Sen. Matt Bartle, the Republican who led the fight for the law, agreed and said he hoped “other states might decide to wade into these waters.”

But the court’s unanimous confirmation of the adult business statute — which bans nude dancing and broadly limits other kinds of adult entertainment — shocked some adult club owners in Missouri, who have fought the restrictions in the legislature and the courts for almost two years.

“We’ve tried to imagine a million different scenarios of how we can operate with this law,” said Joe Spinello, owner of the Shady Lady in Kansas City. “But it’s awfully restrictive.”

At least one local adult entertainment venue closed after the rules went into effect. Others have stayed open, hoping the court would throw out the law and allow a resumption of nude and semi-nude exhibitions.

Some club owners claimed their attendance dropped by 75 percent or more when they tried to meet the new restrictions by covering their dancers, although they now say some customers have started to return.

The clubs could ask the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to take up the issue. Dick Bryant, an attorney for club owners and employees who challenged the law, said he was considering such an appeal — although earlier this year he said such an effort might prove futile.

“We believe the decision is a major erosion of rights of free expression afforded under the constitutions of Missouri and the United States,” Bryant said in an email Tuesday to The Associated Press.

For now, in Missouri:

Nude dancing is prohibited.

“Sexually oriented businesses” — bookstores, clubs and theaters offering semi-nude entertainment — must close between midnight and 6 a.m. “Semi-nude” is defined as showing the female breast below the areola, or naked buttocks, male or female.

Alcohol sales are prohibited in sexually oriented businesses.

Dancers must perform on elevated stages at a distance from customers. Touching is prohibited. Movie viewing in closed booths is prohibited.

Club owners challenged the rules before they went into effect in August 2010, claiming the regulations violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

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