City Council to revisit sexually oriented business bills next week

Before City Council voted to regulate strip clubs, the city investigated what goes on in them. ( News-Sentinel.com file photo)

Members of Fort Wayne City Council will have sex on their minds next week.

Confirming previous News-Sentinel reports, two ordinances are scheduled for introduction that would regulate and license sexually oriented businesses and prohibit “live sex act businesses” such as swingers clubs. The ordinances are similar to laws passed recently by the Allen County Commissioners.

Contending that businesses featuring live sex acts contribute to disease and other problems, the ordinance would declare such businesses a public nuisance and prohibit them from operating. City officials say at least one swingers club is currently operating in Fort Wayne.

The ordinance governing sexually oriented businesses states they, too, contribute to crime, prostitution and other problems. If passed the ordinance would authorize police to inspect such businesses and would require them to pay an initial licensing fee of $100 with an annual renewal for $50. Employees would pay an initial fee of $50 and $25 for renewals and must meet certain requirements, including not having been involved in prostitution.

The ordinance also specifies prohibited conduct and imposes a $2,500 fine for the first violation and $7,500 fine for subsequent offenses.

Unlike the county, however, the city ordinance does not impose a curfew on sexually oriented businesses. Two years ago, some City Council members tried to limit sexually oriented businesses to operating from midnight to 7 a.m., but council ultimately tabled the proposal. The next month. by an 8-1 vote. council approved a bill targeting “chronic problem” properties of all sorts, whether sex-related or not.

The bills were drafted with the help of Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney with considerable expertise in this field. He said the concepts incorporated into the city’s proposals have been upheld in other jurisdictions and will address potential shortcomings in existing city ordinances, some of which have not been updated in 20 years.