August 21, 2007
Strike three for the SOBs

If this isn't the death blow, I don't know what is.

A federal appeals court today upheld a city ordinance restricting where topless clubs and sexually oriented businesses can operate.

The ruling by a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is a significant victory for the city, which has spent more than $1 million defending the ordinance in the decade since its adoption.

In a short written opinion, the court affirmed a finding earlier this year by a federal judge in Houston that the city had properly imposed rules prohibiting such businesses from operating within 1,500 feet of schools, churches, parks and licensed day-care centers.

The court agreed that the city demonstrated enough alternative sites where the topless clubs, adult book and video stores and nude modeling studios could relocate.

The ruling means the Houston Police Department's vice officers can begin enforcing the ordinance, arresting owners and employees working in businesses that violate the ordinance.

There's a longer version of this story in the print edition, which for some reason I can't find online. It indicates that the clubs will pursue a Supreme Court appeal, though honestly I can't see it changing the result. The only question that remains is which clubs will try to relocate, and which ones will go the pasties-and-bikini-bottoms route to circumvent the "sexually oriented business" designation. A copy of the ruling is here (PDF), via the City Hall blog.

UPDATE: Matt Stiles emails to send me the URL for the longer story. Thanks, Matt!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 21, 2007 to Local politics