Nation & World

Adult entertainment law goes before Missouri's high court

Missouri's yearlong dispute over what adult entertainment venues can offer — and when — is probably entering its final, decisive stage today in Jefferson City.

The state's Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments this morning in the legal challenge to a law that broadly restricts adult entertainment in strip clubs, bookstores and movie houses. The General Assembly passed the restrictions in 2010, and courts have upheld them.

That leaves the Missouri Supreme Court as the last hope for adult business owners, who argue the restrictions — which prohibit nudity and limit hours of operation for seminude establishments, among other things — have unconstitutionally devastated their industry.

“This is the final stop,” said Dick Bryant, an attorney representing the adult venues. “This is the final decision on whether Missouri has adult businesses.”

While the court will hear arguments in the case, a ruling isn’t expected for several weeks.

The state will be represented by Attorney General Chris Koster’s office, which declined to comment on the case.

Currently, the law:

Prohibits full nudity.

Allows seminude entertainment, described generally as exposed breasts, but requires such sexually oriented businesses to close at midnight.

Requires a six-foot separation between entertainer and audience in a semi-nude establishment, and an elevated stage

Prohibits alcohol in sexually oriented businesses.

In court papers, the state argued the restrictions are a proper exercise of legislative authority. The law was passed not to limit speech, the state contends, but to protect the public from alleged problems associated with adult businesses.

“The legislative record plainly documents numerous secondary effects, including filthy conditions and illicit sexual behavior in adult bookstore booths, noise and crime problems associated with late-night adult business operations, the combustible combination of alcohol and adult live sexual entertainment, and prostitution and drugs in strip clubs,” according to the state’s brief in the case.

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