Court - Lake of Ozarks strippers don't have to wear tops

Saturday, September 7, 2002

LAKE OZARK, Mo. -- The city of Lake Ozarks does not have the right to strictly regulate what dancers at a strip club are required to wear, the Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled.

The appeals court last week overturned a Miller County judge's ruling upholding a Lake Ozark ordinance requiring the dancers at Gentlemen's Quarterly to wear opaque coverings over the lower half of their breasts.

In the court's written opinion, Justice Robert G. Ulrich said Lake Ozark had failed to show that the ordinance, enacted in 1999, was necessary to prevent "the negative, secondary effects associated with erotic dancing establishments," which was the required standard set by previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Controversy over what the dancers should wear has swirled since the adult nightclub opened in 1992. After passing and changing an ordinance on the dancers' dress several times, the Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen put the issue to a vote. In April, 2000, by a 198-97 margin, voters said dancers should have to cover the lower half of their breasts.

In response, the adult club filed a lawsuit in Miller County Circuit Court, saying the newly enacted ordinance violated the dancers' constitutional right to freedom of expression. That court ruled in favor of the city's right to enact the ordinance.

Supreme Court ruling

But in arguing before the appeals court, attorney Lew Bridges said that because the ordinance was directed only at Gentlemen's Quarterly, it violated U.S. Supreme Court rulings in cases where municipalities attempted to ban a particular establishment from providing adult entertainment.

The court agreed, saying the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that an ordinance restricting erotic entertainment is legal only if it is enacted to limit an increase in nude live entertainment that threatens the public health, safety and welfare. Ulrich said the only evidence presented by the city that it enacted the ordinance because of such adverse impacts was testimony by former alderman Carolyn Berger and several residents who expressed moral concerns.

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