| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 30 A New York City zoning law
designed to keep adult entertainment businesses away from
schools, churches and residential neighborhoods was deemed
unconstitutional by a New York state judge on Thursday.
Justice Louis York of the New York State Supreme Court in
Manhattan said a set of amendments in 2001 meant to tighten the
city's regulation of strip clubs, topless bars and adult video
and book stores violated the constitutional protections of free
and were unnecessary.
York said adult establishments today differ from their
predecessors by having less garish signage and by segregating
their erotica from more mainstream parts of their business,
making them less conspicuous to the public.
"These entities no longer operate in an atmosphere placing
more dominance of sexual matters over non-sexual ones," York
said, ruling on two lawsuits lodged by a group of adult
businesses against the city.
The ruling will have the biggest effect on the dozens of
bars, restaurants, book and video stores that offer adult
entertainment alongside non-X-rated services.
The 2001 amendments defined many of such establishments as
"adult enterprises" that are barred from operating closer than
500 feet (150 metres) from other sexually oriented venues, or
from schools, places of worship and homes.
Current city guidelines allow venues where less than 40
percent of space or inventory is devoted to sexually explicit
activities to operate anywhere in the city.
York noted that studies presented to the court concluded
that the presence of adult establishments did not increase crime
rates or lower property value, as previously believed.
"Accordingly there is no need for the 2001 amendments ...
they are a violation of free-speech provisions of the U.S. and
state Constitutions," he said.
The ruling was a loss for city officials who have sought to
crack down on what they call "sham compliance" by venues that
employ methods such as piling stacks of children's videos on the
floor in order to ostensibly devote 60 percent of their
inventory to non-adult material.
Robin Binder, deputy chief of the administrative law
division of the City Law Department, said her agency would
appeal the decision.
"The city's ability to regulate adult establishments is
critical to preserving neighborhood quality of life," Binder
said in a statement.
Others called the ruling a triumph for freedom.
"The overarching thesis is that people have a right of
choice," said Herald Price Fahringer, an attorney for video
stores represented in the lawsuits. "If I want to go in and buy
an erotic tape ... I have a right to do that."
(Reporting by Lily Kuo; editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad