Adult Club’s Challenge to Zoning Rules Fails

     SCRANTON, Pa. (CN) – A Federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against filed against two Pennsylvania municipality by the owner of a proposed adult entertainment club who claimed the communities were using zoning laws to violate its constitutional rights.
     Dutchman MX Park LLC wanted to open a club featuring nude and partially nude female dancers in Pine Grove, Pa., a small community within the borders of both Schuylkill County and Washington Township, which were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
     In its pleading, Dutchman MX Park said it “does not seek to present nudity for its own sake,” but rather, “it seeks to have nude dancers ‘communicate a specific message of eroticism which includes both an intellectual component and an emotive component emphasizing sensuality, passion and excitement.'”
     The plaintiff further says it believes, “that providing this form of expressive communication to the public is a beneficial social activity which enhances individuals conscious ability to assimilate and consider various issues involving sexual candor and interest in human sexuality that all human beings have to a great or less degree.”
     The complaint adds, “Plaintiff further seeks to serve alcoholic beverages to the patrons who take part in this expressive communication.”
     Washington Township does not have a zoning ordinance, therefore Schuylkill County’s zoning ordinance applies to property within the township. The county ordinance restricts the location of adult uses and also requires a special exception for adult uses.
     The county has filed an action in the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas to enjoin the plaintiff from using its premises as an adult use or adult entertainment facility.
     Faced with the denial of a permit, Dutchman MX Park filed an instant action, alleging that the municipalities were violating its constitutional rights, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.
     U.S. District Judge James M. Munley dismissed the claim against the township, holding that as it didn’t have any zoning restrictions, it was a party to the dispute.
     Munley then turned his attention to the claim against the county, relying on the three-prong Younger abstention doctrine (established in Younger v. Harris, 401 US 37 [1971]) as the basis for his determination of merits.
     The first prong is that there was a pending state proceeding, which was already clear. The second prong is whether he proceeding implicates important state interests. “Courts, including the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, have held that zoning matters and the regulation of adult establishments are important state interests,” Munley wrote.
     The third prong is whether the plaintiff had an adequate opportunity to raise its constitutional challenges.
     Finding all three to be the case, Munley dismissed the instant action against both defendant municipalities.

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