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Ohio's adult businesses are seeing red

Kahoots club website image

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There are very few unvarnished economic truths out there. Rising prices aren't always a bad thing. In the corporate world, there is such a thing as having too much money. And sometimes, creating new jobs is a problem. Especially if some consider those jobs . . . sleazy.

The state legislature in Ohio has tough new rules regulating strip clubs and adult video stores. Club owners say their businesses are being threatened, and they're trying to take the issue straight to the voters this fall.

From Ohio Public Radio, Bill Cohen reports. One quick thought before we get started: This might not be a story for the kids to hear.


Bill Cohen: At the Kahoots Club in Columbus, the music throbs and the lights are low. Bare-breasted women undulate just inches from adoring customers who slip money into the dancers' G-strings.

It's the kind of scene that makes the group Citizens for Community Values see red. The conservative group says X-rated bars, book stores and video outlets are dens of iniquity with a big cost.

David Miller helps lead the group:

David Miller: The increase in crime that it brings to neighborhoods. Lower property values. It brings in urban blight and a general downgrading to those areas of the community.

To blunt the blight, Citizens for Community Values successfully pressured Ohio into passing a statewide crackdown. It bans naked dancing between midnight and 6 a.m. It also says if patrons touch dancers, it could mean six months in jail.

Here is state Representative Bill Seitz on the House floor:

Bill Seitz: And if you think that the young ladies who are working their way through college supporting their children while dancing for the patrons' entertainment — if you think it proper that they should be groped and fondled by the patrons, then go ahead and vote no.

But many of the dancers say they don't need protection. Dozens have shown up at the Capitol.

Dancer Amber Layman says they are independent contractors, renting space at the clubs and their pay depends on patrons' getting up close and personal.

Amber Layman: When we do a dance, our tips are what pay us. And if they can't pay us, then we'll all be out of work.

Club owners say the late-night shutdown of nude dancing would slash their profits, because 70 percent of their business doesn't come in until after midnight.

Former stripper Angelina Spencer, the head of a national group of club owners, claims 10,000 industry jobs and a lot of cash are at stake in Ohio.

Angelina Spencer: Look, everyone wants to say only perverts and geeks patronize those clubs. The industry is not a $250 million per year industry in the state of Ohio because 250 guys in raincoats are spending a million dollars a year.

The group Citizens for Community Values says strip club profits might dip, but not enough to force shutdowns. Eight other states have some kind of statewide limits on X-rated businesses. In Nashville, Tenn., a 3-foot buffer zone is required between dancers and customers.

Club owner Joe Hall claims that has slashed his bottom line.

Joe Hall: My gross dollar revenues went down 65 percent. And they have never recovered.

Ohio club owners have been threatening to sue over the new limits. They've also launched a petition drive to try to block the new law from taking effect in September. If successful, the drive will also give voters the final say on whether the law is good or bad.

What do Ohioans think about all this? A critic of the crackdown, state Representative Dan Stewart, has this take:

Dan Stewart: The thing I hear most from the public is this is a stupid bill. Aren't there more important things you guys need to be dealing with down there than this?

Actually, a recent poll shows voters split right down the middle on the state regulating strip clubs. But there's a gender gap: Only 36 percent of men favor a new law, but 53 percent of women like the idea.

In Columbus, I'm Bill Cohen for Marketplace

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