ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – The Allen County Commissioners are intent on setting some firm boundaries for what “goes” and doesn’t “go” for those who want to operate sexually oriented businesses under their oversight.
The county commissioners Friday approved several actions, beginning a process to clear up the idea of restricting or outright banning certain activities of businesses in the sex industry.
The commissioners’ votes could lay out, for instance, where those kinds of businesses can open and how they can operate under the jurisdiction of the county.
Currently, there are no such establishments doing business in the unincorporated parts of the county, but after the City of Fort Wayne last summer was sued by a strip club that said it was applying its ordinance unfairly, county leaders decided to get out ahead of the game.
“To avoid any litigation issues, so yes, they have to be proactive and that’s what we’re doing in this case,” said county commissioner Rich Beck.
The commissioners unanimously authorized a licensing process for companies that might apply to open a strip club, adult bookstore or adult retail store like Boudoir Noir in downtown Fort Wayne.
1st Amendment free speech rights essentially don’t allow local governments to shut out most sexually oriented businesses, but the courts have said they can use data showing negative impacts on surrounding properties, the risk to public safety and things like lewdness and public indecency to restrict the hours they can be open, the districts where they can locate, and in the case of strip clubs, permit the banning of full nudity by dancers who perform.
The county commissioners also voted to ban live sex act establishments, such as certain Swingers Clubs.
The courts have found the 1st Amendment free speech protections don’t apply to them, because of public health concerns regarding sex acts going on in a public venue.
We caught up with Ellis Hernandez, who believes the government should mind its own business.
“Those are venues for adults to enjoy themselves, find things to help them enjoy themselves, and it doesn’t need to be regulated by the government, because adults can regulate those things for themselves,” Hernandez said.
An attorney will be working on specific code language that the county plan commission and county commissioners will consider ratifying at follow-up meetings.