(CN) - A Florida strip club cannot strike down county laws governing nudity and sexually oriented businesses, the 11th Circuit ruled.
After Manatee County overhauled its outdated adult entertainment code, three local strip clubs filed suit, claiming the laws - including an all-out ban on public nudity and a prohibition on strippers showing too much skin - violated their First Amendment rights. The code also restricts clubs' hours of operation, bars them from serving alcohol, and prohibits club employees from touching, or even coming within 6 feet of, patrons.
Manatee grounded its new regulations on a desire to reduce the negative side effects associated with sexually oriented businesses, and backed up its claims with expert testimony linking the businesses to increased crime rate, lowered property values, the spread of disease, illegal drug use, litter, and increased prostitution, sexual assault, and exploitation.
A federal judge dismissed the strip clubs' complaint in summary judgment, and two of the clubs dropped out of the suit.
Peek-a-Boo Lounge, a Bradenton "adult dance establishment" appealed to the federal appeals court in Atlanta, arguing that the ordinance does not serve a substantial government interest.
The three-judge panel upheld the lower court's ruling in a 32-page ruling released Jan. 21, finding that Peek-a-Boo failed to disprove the mountain of evidence that the county collected to bolster its regulations.
One criminology professor had testified: "The relationship between crime and sexually oriented businesses is ... a scientific fact," according to the appellate panel's ruling.
The court's opinion written by Judge Stanley Marcus notes how Manatee submitted a voluminous and broadly applicable body of evidence consisting of local police reports; a report that details how exotic dancers, in general, are often abused and stalked; local liquor violations; and newspaper articles about illegal acts uncovered in police stings at strip clubs in other Florida counties.
Peek-a-Boo's experts, on the other hand, failed to even challenge many of the compelling studies that Manatee's experts gathered, Marcus wrote.
"It is undeniable that the county has made a substantial showing, relying on as thorough a record as we have seen in these cases," the ruling states. "Moreover, Peek-a-Boo has failed to cast direct doubt on the totality of the county's evidence."
"The bottom line is that the county has presented a substantial body of evidence to support its rationale for adopting the ordinance," Marcus continued. "Peek-a-Boo has failed even to address much of that evidence at all, and it has failed to show that the county's rationale or this body of evidence was unreasonable.
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