Horry County Council voted Tuesday to enact two ordinances that will change the way adult businesses in unincorporated areas do business – or not do business at all at the current locations.
However, two businesses – The Gold Club gentleman’s club and Airport Express Video – have vowed to file temporary restraining orders in U.S. District Court to prevent any action from closing their doors until challenges are filed to zap the new ordinances from the books.
Those expecting excitement from the third reading got it Tuesday, where a near-capacity council chamber heard some of the same arguments and some new arguments on both sides of the issue. One resident read the definition of gentleman to the council; playful ribbing between council members about who would hold the broom and who would hold the rug if the council sweeps the issue under the rug again; and there was plenty of cheering between comments as both sides presented their arguments.
The zoning and conduct ordinances each passed 9-2, with Councilmen Harold Worley and Carl Schwartzkopf voting against the ordinances. Both men have said they want enforceable ordinances, but wanted to take more time on them to try to avoid legal battles and work with adult businesses on an amicable ordinance.
The new zoning ordinance restricts adult-themed businesses to one of three zoned areas in the county – highway commercial, limited industrial and heavy industrial. The zoning ordinance forces the businesses to be at least 1,500 feet from residential properties, churches, daycares and the like, which will effectively make every adult business in unincorporated Horry County in violation unless they change their current ways.
Council also passed a conduct ordinance, which prevents adult-themed businesses from being open between midnight and 6 a.m. The ordinance also sets stricter rules for businesses with viewing booths and prevents nudity in gentleman’s clubs. It also states semi-nudity is OK if employees are six feet from patrons on a stage that is at least 18 inches high.
Early in Tuesday’s discussions, Worley made a motion to defer the issue to a committee of two councilmen, two community leaders and two members of the adult industry. He said they would have six months to come up with ordinances that work for everyone involved. The motion was voted down.
The county’s eight adult-themed businesses now have 90 days to comply with the new ordinances unless there is a challenge in court.
“I just think that we’re leaving a lot on the table here,” Worley said. “We’re missing an opportunity here to get something in place whereas the way we’re going, we’re not going to get anything. They’re not going anywhere.”
“This is the first time we’ve had both sides of the issue willing to sit down and discuss it,” he said. “Previously to this point, it has been a one-way street.”
Councilman Paul Price said there have been more than enough opportunities for business owners to get involved.
“How many years, not months, do we have to wait as a council to stand up and do what we were elected to do?” he said.
Councilman Al Allen received probably the loudest and most response from attendees after reminding council chambers who put the elected officials in office.
“With all due respect, the adult entertainment industry has not stepped up and offered to begin meeting until we started to put some teeth in our ordinance. Ask yourself why,” Allen said. “We have go to do this for the betterment of our county.”
“The golfers, again with all due respect, who attend those clubs didn’t elect us to put us in office.”
Darren Squires, a local pastor, told the council before the vote that it was their chance to “restrain the evil.”
“You’re the people that can change our county,” he said. “You’re the ones we can put down as the one’s who made a difference… What we’re asking you to do when we put our confidence in voting for you… is to restrain the evil.”
Adult businesses such as The Gold Club, Airport Express Video and Bottoms Up Gentlemen’s Club in Little River were the known businesses in attendance.
Pat Ward, owner of Bottoms Up, said he has owned the club for 18 years and has gone through all of the proper permitting for signage and when making improvements, which he believes makes him compliant with the county’s ordinances.
“We didn’t just get here yesterday and start dancing,” he said. “We’re not going nowhere… we’re going to stay where we’re at and put more clothes on or whatever. I think, as owners, we can all sit down and revise the rules, regulations, whatever you want to do.
“It’s our constitutional right to be here and we’re going to be here.”
Mike Rose, owner of The Gold Club, said before the vote that discussing and settling any issues should be done outside of court.
“I just don’t think that federal court is the place for it,” Rose said. “I believe if you could all agree to work with me and my attorney, we could help make all the necessary changes that are good for you, the community and our business.”
Resident Charles Moshier believes the business owners are were right in coming forward and asking for a meeting and he fears their move to try and negotiate – even at the 11th hour – will look bad in court if a judge asks if the case could have avoided court.
“I’m asking you for one thing: Do not get me sued,” he told the council before the vote. “Is it their fault that they’re in this position today?”
Moshier said it’s the county’s loose ordinances that let these businesses in. But before Tuesday’s vote was the time to help reach a happy medium.
“It’s quite evident that these people are willing to sit down and talk,” he sad. “That might avoid problems later on.”
After the vote took place and the 90-day clock for the ordinances began, Chairman Mark Lazarus ended the discussion with a simple message to County Attorney Arrigo Carotti and Scott Bergthold, the out-of-state attorney the county hired to draft these ordinances.
“Mr. Carotti and Mr. Bergthold, you’ve got your work cut out for you,” he said.
via~ Myrtle Beach Online