Daytona Beach has experience in the adult business battle

08/31/2013 12:00 AM

08/30/2013 5:48 PM

Daytona Beach, Fla., City Attorney Marie Hartman has been involved in regulating – and litigating – adult-oriented businesses for nearly three decades.

The city’s efforts started in 1981, a few years before Hartman got involved.

“It was started at the same time that the city made its first serious redevelopment effort,” Hartman said.

Its downtown was older, several buildings were considered to be in blighted areas and the drug trade was rather active then. About 20 adult businesses – from adult bookstores to strip clubs and adult video stores – surrounded the city Hartman has called home all her life. Though it’s been well known what goes on in the establishments, Hartman is quick to point out one thing – and it’s the same thing Horry County has said for years as well: “We have no adult businesses here.”

No licenses are issued for adult businesses. The businesses, Hartman said, push the envelope to stay open.

“Nobody closed,” Hartman recalled as the regulations were put in place. “They simply converted to compliance.”

In 1981, the city banned nudity in places that sold alcoholic beverages and also moved adult bookstores and theaters away from each other and from residential areas, similar to what Horry County is trying to pass. Both the alcohol regulation and the zoning regulations were litigated, in state and federal courts respectively, and Daytona Beach prevailed in both cases.

The 10 or so strip clubs did what they could to get around the regulation.

“What they did, they attempted to clothe their entertainers and not to cross the line as an adult theater,” she said.

Hartman said the city has been “up through the courts a few times” over the years, utilizing a great amount of staff time and “quite minimal” amount of finances. In fact, the city hired Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney specializing in regulating adult businesses, to help litigate its most recent case sent to the Appellate Court. Bergthold is the same attorney hired by Horry County. For the most part, Hartman said the investment of time and money has paid off.

“The number of strip bars has dwindled partly due to redevelopment efforts and partly due to the economy,” Hartman said. “We don’t have a proliferation of that anymore.”

Hartman uses the words “few” and “a couple” when talking about the strip clubs-turned-bikini bars and bookstores when describing the city these days.

“What would we have if we didn’t have regulation?” she said.

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