Since midnight Wednesday, Horry County police have issued at least seven citations to adult-themed businesses found to be in violation of the county’s newest adult business ordinances, according to Horry County police spokesman Lt. Robert Kegler.
At least one owner said he complied with the new ordinances and should not have been cited.
The ordinances, which took effect Wednesday, are aimed at cleaning up adult-themed businesses and adult bookstores. County officials all summer contended the adult-themed businesses are havens for illegal activity, such as drugs and prostitution.
A Jan. 29 court date is scheduled for employees and/or owners of Teezers Gentleman’s Club, Secret’s Cabaret, Bottoms Up Gentleman’s Cub, Tiffany’s Cabaret, Fantails, The Bunny Ranch and The Gold Club. A $500 fine is associated with the citations, if the clubs are found noncompliant, according to Kegler.
The new zoning ordinance restricts adult-themed businesses to one of three zoned areas in the county – highway commercial, limited industrial and heavy industrial. It also forces the businesses to be at least 1,500 feet from residential properties, churches, daycares and the like, which will effectively make every adult business in unincorporated Horry County in violation unless they change their current ways.
A conduct ordinance, also passed earlier this year, prevents adult-themed businesses from being open between midnight and 6 a.m. The ordinance also sets stricter rules for businesses with viewing booths and prevents nudity in gentleman’s clubs. It also states semi-nudity is OK if employees are six feet from patrons on a stage that is at least 18 inches high.
At question this week was the definition of semi-nudity.
The county defines adult businesses, such as a cabaret, as one that “features live conduct characterized by semi-nudity.” The definition of semi-nudity in the county’s ordinance states it’s “the showing of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola and extending across the width of the breast at that point, or showing of the male or female buttocks.”
In the narratives of the seven police reports associated with the citations, only The Bunny Ranch narrative indicated the dancer on stage was “wearing a dress made of string like material that showed buttocks of dancer.” All others indicated the establishments were selling alcohol, playing loud music and women were on stage dancing in a sexual manner.
At The Gold Club, according to the narrative, a woman was wearing a bikini-style bathing suit performing in a sexually suggestive manner. When police confronted the manager of The Gold Club, the manager stated the dancer is not an employee of The Gold Club, but rather a “subcontractor that leases the place to dance.”
Mike Rose, owner of The Gold Club, was later cited for the reported violation and said it took him a while to keep his doors open Wednesday because he argued that he was compliant with the new ordinance.
“They came out on a mission,” Rose said. “They coerced the managers to close just by the simple threat of showing up in force and writing these citations... but it was an unlawful closure on these clubs. Mine stayed open because I argued with them for two hours and then I went through two supervisors to keep my place open because they came out and said we were violating the adult ordinance when we aren’t adult related. We don’t operate an adult club, which has always been our argument.”
Rose was the only known business owner to file a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction immediately following the county’s passage of these ordinances in September.
Through his attorneys, The Gold Club was not able to prevent Horry County from enforcing its two new ordinances pertaining to adult businesses. A regular court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9 in U.S. District Court in Florence. He also is involved in a lawsuit that claims the county wrongfully denied him a license to open a similar club along Restaurant Row where the former Thee Dollhouse was located, near the north end of the Grand Strand.
Rose said plans for that club, The Gold Club North, are moving forward and will be similar to the current The Gold Club. That club is scheduled to open late February or early March, which is when more golfers and spring breakers begin noticeably flocking to the Grand Strand.
He said abiding by the new ordinances has been tough.
He also said keeping the entertainers also has been challenging.
Rose said he will remain in “complete compliance” and keep his entertainers covered up in bikinis, which is allowed by the ordinance. The ordinance he referred to states semi-nudity includes the lower portion of the female breasts, “but shall not include any portion of the cleavage of the human female breasts exhibited by a bikini, dress, blouse, shirt, leotard, or similar wearing apparel provided the areola is not exposed in whole or in part.”
“We were not violating any hours, although they claimed we were,” Rose said. “We were in full compliance and we plan to stay that way until we get relief from the court.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.