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Maumee urged to let alleged strip club open

A lawyer for Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt has joined the fight to help a suspected strip club open in Maumee.

Louis Sirkin, a prominent Cincinnati lawyer who has successfully argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, gave Maumee officials until today to issue the XO nightclub an occupancy permit.

He would not say whether the Holland Road club will feature nude dancing, but he said it would comply with the law, and there is no reason for the city to deny the permit.

“It seems to me that smacks as being some prior restraint,” said Mr. Sirkin, who won a Supreme Court case in April that overturned a sweeping child-pornography law passed by Congress. “They are authorized to be a nightclub and that's what they intend to be. I don't know why [city officials] are playing games.”

Sheilah McAdams, Maumee's law director, said no permit will be issued until the club's owners comply with a request to specify what type of business will operate at the old Arrowhead Brewing Co., 1500 Holland at Dussel Drive.

She said it makes no sense to give the club a permit if it isn't going to comply with the sexually oriented business ordinance the city passed earlier this year.

So far, XO officials have only said in letters to the city that it intends to open a “restaurant, bar/nightclub with live entertainment.” Ms. McAdams said that's far too vague.

“Live entertainment could be go-go dancers or tigers in a ring,” she said.

The budding controversy pits a high-profile freedom of speech lawyer against a small suburban community that passed its sexually oriented business law in June, three days after Halo Ventures, Inc., of Las Vegas, applied for a permit to build the club.

The ordinance pushes businesses like strip clubs, adult bookstores, and adult movie theaters to areas that are zoned for heavy industry. XO, which features an awning that calls it a “Gentleman's Place of Leisure,” is in a commercial district.

The Supreme Court has ruled that communities can regulate where they allow adult entertainment businesses as long as they are reasonable as to “time, place, and manner” and don't “unreasonably limit alternative avenues of communication.”

Such regulations can include prohibitions against placing adult businesses too close to schools, churches, and parks.

Ms. McAdams said Maumee crafted its law to minimize interaction families and children might have with adult businesses. “It's right there next to the Cookie Lady,” she said. “There are a lot of places around there where kids might go.”

Robert Hopperton, a University of Toledo law school professor who specializes in property law, said the portion of the Maumee ordinance that requires adult businesses to locate only in industrial areas is an “unusual approach.”

“It probably will go to a legal challenge because the adult entertainment industry is one of the most aggressive and well-financed in the country,” he said. “They'll frequently go to any place where there is a prohibition they don't like and litigate.”

John Madigan, a lawyer for the city of Toledo, said Toledo allows adult businesses in commercial zones and is considering an ordinance that would allow them in industrial areas.

Mr. Madigan said laws can't be structured in a way that no land is available for adult businesses, but there is no requirement on cities to find a location for them. In other words, he said, the city is under no obligation to provide zones for adult businesses that offer cheap or readily available land. “Even if it's for sale, [property owners] may say, `We don't want to sell to you,'” he said.

John Jezak, Maumee administrator, said the city's not attempting an end-run around the law. He said he doesn't know how many acres of industrial land the city has, but there is available property.

“It's not like we've created a ruse over here where there isn't any land that's available,” he said.

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