For those who know Horry County Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf, they know he is an intensive planner. He already has the Michigan State football schedule slated on his calendar through 2016.
As for his vote on two ordinances relating to adult business regulations, however, it’s a different story.
“When it comes to an issue like this here, I have not made up my mind absolutely, completely 100 percent am I going to vote ‘yes’ or am I going to vote ‘no,’ ” Schwartzkopf said. “I’m not going to make up my mind ... until I hear all of the people on the witness stand, I hear the prosecution and I hear the defense and then I’ll go up in the jury box and make up my mind.”
Same goes for County Chairman Mark Lazarus, who said he will make up his mind after the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s meeting. But there’s one reality that people should understand.
“The reality of it is, is they’re not going away,” Lazarus said. “We have to have zoning areas available for them to be able to go. Their license is a bar and restaurant and that’s what they should be operating as. If they choose to open somewhere else where they comply with zoning, then that’s fine, too. I think the negative effect that it’s causing us is far outweighed by … what we’re trying to do.”
Schwartzkopf said the legislating morality issue weighs on his mind.
“I don’t think it’s government’s responsibility to legislate morality,” he said. “I think it’s the case of maybe trying to control some of the illegal things that happen as a result of it. Turn the clock back to the 1920s and look what happened to prohibition.”
Councilman Harold Worley, whose district includes Bottoms Up Gentleman’s Club, said he would like to see the county spend more time talking with adult business operators and the community to reach an amicable ground to avoid litigation.
“I think there’s a way that we as a county can get some regulations in place that we need without getting ourselves into projected litigation that’s going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees,” Worley said. “If these guys get damages, it can run into the millions of dollars.
“If we’re going to go into federal court, we’re going to be in a bad position. Some [councilmen] are taking the position that it doesn’t matter what the attorney fees are, it doesn’t matter what the costs are, and it doesn’t matter what the damages are. It’s a matter of getting it done.”
Worley said he believes the ordinances need updating in a more methodic way.
“The thing that we do need, no matter what the cost is, is we need to regulate that industry,” he said. “We need to sit down with the industry and work through these issues one by one, and I’m sure we can come up with something that works.”
Worley said he wants to make sure businesses are treated equally, as well, and hopes to get six councilmen Tuesday to vote against the ordinance, not because of lack of support, but because of the need for more time.
“It’s one thing to put somebody out of business, but it’s another thing to regulate,” he said, pointing to the conduct ordinance’s time restrictions it puts on adult businesses to close between midnight and 6 a.m. “How can you tell one bar you’ve got to close at 12 o’clock and another bar can stay open until 2?”
Councilman Marion Foxworth, who has at least four adult businesses in his district, said he has four serious concerns that “bother me greatly” when it comes to these ordinances.
First, he said he is concerned about how the county, specifically the sheriff’s department, will afford to enforce some of the regulations in the conduct ordinance where all employees at adult businesses need to be permitted by the county and have background checks performed on them. Second, Foxworth said he is concerned with the legal costs, especially if it takes years to settle with the adult businesses. He said he wanted to make sure the councilmen who vote for the ordinances still support them as legal bills pile up and other needs of the county, like emergency services equipment, need to be rejected for lack of funds.
Third, Foxworth said he is worried the proposed zoning ordinance does not grandfather any of the current businesses from its existing zoning regulations, which he thinks the courts will frown upon.
Mainly, said he’s concerned that the three zoning areas the county is allowing adult businesses to move to – highway commercial, limited industrial and heavy industrial – cannot be zoned to.
“The three zoning classes are old zoning classes,” Foxworth said. “They’ve been around, some of them, since 1987. And for the past several years, you have not been able to zone to them.”
He said that’s why he’s leaning toward voting against it, but vows to keep an open mind during the public input session.
“I’m sure there are some who look at it and some people are not interested in the legal arguments or concerns,” Foxworth said. “They see it more as a way of protecting society and protecting the community they love.”
Foxworth is also concerned with the logistics of the conduct ordinance, specifically the licensing and background check of all employees in the industry.
“You’re going to have to have someone at the police department dedicated to that task, at least part-time,” he said. “The other side of the coin is what do you accomplish with that?”
Foxworth said there is a great risk with the money being spent.
“The beating of the chest, the waving of the flag and the pumping up. All that will be over with, but we’re going to be stuck with a sizeable legal bill,” he said. “And if they’re granted injunctive relief, I’m not sure we’ll get things to change much, if ever.”
Councilman Paul Price said he hasn’t made up his mind on the final vote, either, because he wants to hear public input.
“We’re not trying to legislate morality, but if we did nothing and the ordinance gets thrown out with the federal courts, then we don’t have anything to prevent them from moving beside your house, my house, a church, a school,” Price said. “They can go anywhere, and I think that’s the point people are missing.”
When it comes to the economic impact and the more than 300 jobs that can be lost if the ordinance passes and the businesses refuse to comply or move, Price doesn’t calculate “dancers” in the jobs impacted by the ordinances.
“Adult dancers, or nude dancers, they’re not legal now. That’s not a legal job,” he said. “The county has never authorized ... that’s never been sanctioned by the county. If you think about it from that perspective, should the job be vetoed from those figures?”
Price said he also is not surprised by the more than $37,000 price tag the county’s out-of-state attorney Scott Bergthold has racked up because “in those six months, he has re-written an entire ordinance and researched it.”
Price said he is the kind of guy who is most concerned with actions and less concerned with what ifs.
“You can’t base things on what ifs. There’s no guarantee we’re going to be sued,” he said. “And if we are sued, there’s no guarantee that we won’t win. I don’t try to put too much thought into what ifs.”
Calls were placed to all 12 councilmen last week about the adult business issue. Councilman James Frazier had a family emergency and Councilman Gary Loftus returned calls for comment, but could not be reached in time for deadline. All others not in this published report did not return a call for comment.
Schwartzkopf stated a long time ago who the real winners of this issue would be.
“My opening remark when it came back up again is when it’s all over, said and done, whether it gets voted up or it gets voted down, the only people who are going to benefit from this whole discussion and this whole issue are going to be the attorneys,” Schwartzkopf said. “Nobody else is going to make money on this deal and probably a lot of people are going to lose money. The only people who are going to walk down the street when this is all over with big bucks in their pocket are going to be the attorneys.”
Schwartzkopf remembers a case where the county issued a $50 ticket to an adult business owner, and he said the company’s attorney flew in from Florida with a silk suit, tie and shirt and carrying a $500 attaché suitcase, and covered in 100 percent alligator. To fight a $50 fine.
“I think that was basically adult entertainment people saying we’re here whether it’s $50, $500, $5,000 or $50,000, we’re not taking it,” he said. “We’re going to stick [to] our guns and that’s it.
“When they send somebody up from Florida on a private jet in one suit that costs more money than all the suits that I have in my closet to fight a $50 fine I guess you better be able to read between the lines.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.