State Senate Bill Bans Nude Dancing

Special Report - May 13, 2003

A bill recently passed the North Carolina Senate that would allow the state's Alcohol Law Enforcement Division (ALE) to resume enforcement of a law banning sexually explicit conduct in businesses that sell alcohol, such as strip clubs. The ban has not been enforced since last November, when the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law was overly broad. The owners of a Greensboro strip club challenged the law in federal court, after an ALE agent cited them for allowing their dancers to simulate sexual activities on stage. A district court judge agreed with the club owners that the law violated their free speech rights and issued a preliminary injunction against the law in 2000. The appeals court upheld most of that ruling and said that the U.S. Constitution protects “nude dancing”. Since then, the State reports that lap dancing and other previously banned activities have increased at many clubs and bars. S996—ABC-SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONDUCT BANNED, which was introduced at ALE's request, is an attempt to address the concerns of the federal courts and allow the State to begin enforcing the ban again. The bill explicitly defines the types of sexual activities that are banned and highlights the secondary effects of sexually orientated businesses, such as increased prostitution, violent crime, drug use and sexual assault. Businesses that violate the ban would be subject to losing their alcohol permits. But the bill also includes an exemption for "establishments that are primarily devoted to the arts or theatrical performances, and are engaged in expressing a matter of serious literary, artistic, scientific, or political value." The North Carolina Family Policy Council supports the bill, but is concerned that these exemptions could create an unfortunate loophole that renders the bill ineffective. S996 passed the Senate on April 29 and has been referred to the House Judiciary II committee.

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