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County passes adult entertainment ordinance

County commissioners approved Tuesday night an ordinance regulating adult entertainment establishments.

"We need to make sure the board has the ability to regulate these entities in a way the community finds acceptable," said County Attorney Tommy Craig.

Legally, the county cannot prohibit such establishments but is allowed to regulate them. The county has received several inquiries recently related to requirements to open adult entertainment establishments, according to Craig. Chairman Kathy Morgan said she wanted to emphasize, however, that this topic has been on the county's agenda for many months, with discussions beginning last fall.

"We're not rushing this just to meet the most recent requests for information," Craig agreed.

The ordinance defines what constitutes adult entertainment, establishes where such establishments can be located and who can operate them. An adult bookstore is defined as one in which 5 percent or more of publications, books, magazines, periodicals, videotapes and other media depict, describe or are related to sexual activities. Adult entertainment is defined as engaging in live acts or depictions of various sexual activities.

Establishments meeting those criteria are prohibited within 1,000 feet of any land zoned residential, school, place of worship, government building, library, civic center, pubic park or playground, recreational facility or day care and within 2,500 feet of another adult entertainment establishment or location where alcohol is served.

Hours and days of operation are limited to between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Such businesses would not be allowed to operate on Sundays. Alcohol is also prohibited from being sold or consumed on the premises. The ordinance also has numerous provisions prohibiting person to person contact of a sexual nature.

Owners would be required to obtain for a fee an adult entertainment license issued by the Newton County Department of Development Services, with the Sheriff's Office to investigate criminal history. Any applicant convicted of or pleading no contest to a drug or alcohol or sex-related crime in the past five years would not be eligible for approval. All employees must also file an application for employment with the Department of Development Services for a fee with similar restrictions.

Violations of the ordinance will carry up to a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 60 days.