Legislature aims to restrict adult businesses in rural Minnesotaby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
The Minnesota House is expected to take up a bill that would make it tough, if not impossible, for strip clubs to operate in small Minnesota towns. A similar bill easily passed the state Senate recently. But opponents say the effort is unconstitutional.
Collegeville, Minn. — Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, says he's tired of watching strip clubs force themselves into Minnesota's small communities.
"What I would like to do is see these businesses located in larger communities, bigger cities. I don't think they belong in small towns. I'm trying to protect those small communities from unwanted adult entertainment businesses," Dille said.
Even if residents of a small town don't want a strip club, there's not much they can do about it. The First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech and the freedom of expression extends to strip clubs. And federal law says town leaders must find space for all businesses, including strip clubs. But Dille wants that space to be at least a half mile from schools and churches.
"Almost all these small towns are only a mile or so across and less then a square mile in size, and they all have churches and schools. So if you can't locate a strip club within 2,800 feet of a school or a church you're pretty much out of luck in a small town," Dille said.
Dille's plan also gives towns or counties the right to refuse a new strip club if there's another club within 50 miles. And if the bill is signed into law it would force all strip clubs, even those already established across the state, to close their doors by 10 p.m. every night.
In the name of local control, however, the bill leaves it open for any community to override those rules, and keep things as they are.
Eden Valley Mayor Dan Thielen says after a strip club opened in his small central Minnesota town, residents were furious. In an effort to squeeze the club out, the community of 800 has passed an ordinance banning nude dancing. Thielen, whose town is in Sen. Steve Dille's district, says he welcomes any move that helps small towns keep strip clubs out.
"If the adults let these businesses come in and they don't do anything about it, than younger people think 'This is OK, our parents didn't do anything about it,'" Thielen said.
The strip club owners contacted for this story didn't want to talk about the legislation. One owner directed questions to his lawyer, Minneapolis attorney Randall Tigue.
"I hope somebody at the Legislature has the good sense to kill this thing," Tigue said. "Every provision in this bill is just utter nonsense."
Tigue is an ardent defender of the First Amendment who's built his career on defending strip clubs, strippers and adult bookstore owners across the upper Midwest.
Tigue says any effort to stop strip clubs is blatantly unconstitutional. And he says if the bill is signed into law by the governor, he'll immediately take the issue to court.
"The right to nude dancing is constitutionally protected free speech. You don't need the permission of government to do what the Constitution allows you do to as a matter of right," Tigue said.
Tigue takes issue with an assertion in the bill that crime is higher in neighborhoods with strip clubs. He counters the claim, saying he's found crime is just as high or higher around bars and clubs that don't allow nude dancing.
This debate is going on across the country, where lawmakers are working on legislation restricting the clubs because of their reported secondary effects. Some claim increased drunken driving and drug use, prostitution and sexual assault in neighborhoods with strip clubs.
Angelina Spencer is head of a Florida-based trade group called the Association of Club Executives. Spencer, a former stripper and strip club owner herself, says additional restrictions on clubs aren't necessary.
"I'm quite sure that Minnesota has laws against prostitution, against illicit drug use, against blighted property, nuisances, etc. And if a club is truly creating a problem, close them up under the laws that already exist," Spencer said.
In Minnesota, the state House is expected to take up the effort to place more restrictions on strip clubs. Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, is expected to recommend the house accept the Senate bill's language and vote to approve a similar bill.
- Morning Edition, 05/10/2006, 7:50 a.m.