An ordinance to crack down on adult-themed businesses in Horry County was too premature for some councilman Tuesday, as they voted to study the issue more until after Labor Day.
Ordinances to regulate adult-themed businesses in the county have been talked about for at least 13 years. Many traditionally known strip clubs are zoned restaurants and bars. Adult video and bookstores and massage parlors are zoned many things, including party shop and party supply stores.
County officials would like to change that and hold the adult-themed businesses to standards that keep secondary crimes like prostitution, drug trafficking and drug use at bay while holding adult-themed business owners and their employees accountable through licensing requirements.
“I’m just not comfortable... that I’m on the same level as some of you in entertaining this ordinance,” said Councilman Harold Worley. “I certainly think we need an ordinance. I’m just not sure of what that ordinance is right now.”
What county officials pondered during a workshop Tuesday were ordinances that set adult-themed businesses 1,500 feet from residential areas and 1,000 feet apart from each other if new ones were to come to the county.
It also would eliminate owners of adult-themed clubs selling the businesses as adult businesses. Licensing requirements would not allow owners who have had at least 30 percent financial interest in an adult-themed bar that has been declared a nuisance in the past five years to obtain a license. It also would require employees, including bouncers, dancers and bartenders, to pay an initial licensing fee of $50 and an annual fee of $25 to work at adult-themed businesses.
The ordinance, as it is currently written, restricts owners from hiring those with convictions, such as prostitution.
The council approved first reading on June 4. Tuesday’s workshop was designed to allow councilmen to ask more questions before the ordinance was brought before the council for a second reading. A total of three readings would be needed to make the changes law in Horry County.
Councilman Paul Price commended County Attorney Arrigo Carotti, Planning Director Janet Carter and their staff members and others who pieced together the two ordinances.
“They’ve done their due diligence on this,” Councilman Price said. “Either we trust them or we don’t trust them.”
Councilman Marion Foxworth said there were too many questions, including enforcement and their resilience in court, to approve the ordinances for a second reading.
“I’m not sure we’re [ready] for a second reading,” Councilman Foxworth said.
Planning director Carter said regulating the adult industry can get pretty costly in court. She said she has learned firsthand as the county has tried three times in the last 13 years to bring forth ordinances that will hold up in court.
“If we go out and write a $50 ticket, we found out it ends up a federal case or a very complicated state case,” she said.
Chairman Mark Lazarus appointed several councilmen and Horry County Chief of Police Saundra Rhodes to study the ordinances and bring back recommendations by the council’s Sept. 17 meeting.
“This ordinance needs more council input,” said Councilman Worley, who made the motion to form the committee. “Take a little time and get it right.”