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Oak Harbor moves to regulate nude dancing
There’s apparently interest in a new kind of business for Oak Harbor: adult entertainment.
And the idea doesn’t sit well with Oak Harbor city officials who are “working hard and fast,” to cobble together an ordinance to add to the city’s municipal code, said City Attorney Margery Hite.
The Governmental Services Committee will review the ordinance in draft form Monday, March 9 at 8 a.m. in the City Hall Conference Room, 865 SE Barrington Dr., before it goes to the full council later this month.
The document’s debut is penciled in for the second Oak Harbor City Council meeting, Tuesday, March 23 at 6 p.m., Hite said.
The council’s decision on the adult entertainment ordinance is considered an “emergency action.” If it’s approved, the ordinance will go on the books right away. Afterwards, council members will have the option to further refine the ordinance and complete “all the procedural stuff,” said Hite.
Although no one has applied for an “exotic entertainment” business license, a number of entrepreneurs have asked about it, according to Hite.
Because this specific type of permit doesn’t yet exist in Oak Harbor, an adult entertainment business license application would go through the city’s Development Services Department, Hite said.
“There is no option for this kind of license yet,” she said, adding that the responsibility would lie with Development Services Director Steve Powers to interpret the current code.
In that case, Powers said he’d look at the application from two perspectives, land use and licensing.
The former viewpoint focuses on the business location, including proximity to schools, churches or other groups that may have a conflict with strip-tease type services. Licensing covers everything within the physical building.
Mayor Jim Slowik is cautious about the working ordinance, which is meant to tighten regulations over any adult businesses.
“The First Amendment says you can dance nude,” Slowik said in an interview Monday. “And at this point the city does not have any protection (against nude dancing).”
What the city officials can do is pass an ordinance that regulates adult entertainment: where it’s allowed in the city and what employees may or may not wear.
The City Council can ban all forms of nudity within Oak Harbor, but it cannot just ban nude dancing, said Hite, citing a Supreme Court decision that calls dance —- with or without clothing — a form of expression.
The ordinance can, however, regulate what body parts need to be covered and where such entertainment venues can operate within the city.
“We can say something like they’ll need to wear pasties and g-strings,” Slowik said, giving an example of what the proposed ordinance might allow.
The working draft was first presented at the Public Safety Standing Committee, which includes Police Chief Rick Wallace, Fire Chief Mark Soptich and council members Bob Severns, Beth Munns and Scott Dudley.
“The council has just briefly been made aware of it,” the mayor said.
A similar issue came to the forefront of city government about five years ago after the owner of a bygone downtown bar, P.W. Murphy’s, looked into the legality of strip-tease type entertainment in Oak Harbor.
Several downtown bars currently toe the line with Jell-O wrestling, foam parties and wet T-shirt contests, but as far as Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace can remember, there’s never been an adult entertainment club.
“I’ve been here since the 1950s; there’s never been one,” Wallace said. “As for before then, I don’t know.”