Who really benefits from the county’s planned attack on strip clubs?
By Paul Gable
Once again yielding to its ‘grow big government instincts,’ Horry County government is preparing to launch an attack on strip clubs with an apparent goal of shutting the clubs down throughout the county.
The initiative is not coming from county council even though several members are now attempting to wrap themselves in a morals protection flag. This is a county government staff driven initiative as a panic reaction to a current suit in federal court.
The current county ordinance governing adult entertainment businesses is expected to be struck down as unconstitutional in federal court in the near future.
As a result of this expectation, county staff contracted an “uber lawyer” from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who specializes in crafting ordinances with severe restrictions on adult entertainment businesses. This lawyer, reportedly, says his ordinances can be defended against constitutional questions in federal court, although there are no guarantees of success.
While the new ordinance includes a grandfathering clause for current, legally operating strip clubs and other adult businesses, county attorney Arrigo Carotti told council members Tuesday night that none of the strip clubs currently operating in the county were doing so legally. Carotti said the current strip clubs had applied for business licenses as bar/restaurant clubs, not as adult entertainment clubs.
If none of the current clubs are properly licensed, according to Carotti’s logic, they have no grandfathering protection in the new ordinance.
Why, if these businesses are not properly licensed have they not been shut down already? Because the county’s current adult entertainment ordinance is faulty and soon expected to be declared unconstitutional.
So what’s the big deal here?
Whether you like them or not, strip clubs are part of the tourist offering of Horry County, especially important to the golfers who dump significant piles of dollars into the county’s economy during spring and fall shoulder seasons.
The county, due to the overreaction of its staff, is constructing a reactive ordinance that will cost piles of dollars to enforce. For example, the new ordinance will require each and every dancer and others to have a business license from the county in their possession at all times while working. Enforcement of this provision will require an untold number of police officers visiting every club every night to check business licenses of virtually every employee in every club.
The ordinance will cost even more piles of dollars to defend in federal court when the inevitable lawsuits against the county are filed by currently operating strip clubs.
These many piles of dollars will come from the county’s general fund, costing taxpayers probably tens of thousands of dollars over the next few years. Because county staff has been lax in its approach to strip clubs over the last 15 years or so, it now proposes significant government growth as it tries to catch up.
And the “uber lawyer” from Tennessee can add to his retirement account with Horry County tax dollars.