County Commission passes regulations for sexually oriented businesses (UPDATED)

CORRECTION:  In this story, originally posted September 10, WMCTV.com erroneously reported that Commissioner David Lillard abstained from voting.  In fact, Lillard was one of 11 commissioners to vote in favor of the ordinance.  The story has been corrected.  WMCTV.com regrets the error.

New rules passed Monday by the Shelby County Commission regulating sexually oriented businesses will drastically change the way strip clubs operate.

Dancers and other employees will have to get a license from Shelby County, and go through a criminal background check.  Anyone with a recent record won't get a permit to work.

"And if you're a club and you have somebody working in your club that doesn't have a license, we can shut the club down, and that's it...the club is history," Commissioner Mike Ritz said.

Alcohol is also prohibited. "You can't brown bag or anything," Ritz added.
 
Sexually oriented businesses have been in the bulls eye of Shelby County Commissioners for  months, but until Monday, no business owner had stepped forward to oppose the proposed changes.
 
Attorney Price Harris represents a company called Entertainment USA, a company whose primary shareholder is strip club Steve Cooper.

Harris argued the county's actions violated the constitution.

"It does tend to start a slippery slope and today if we're going to regulate this business, then maybe it'll be a movie tomorrow.  Maybe it'll be a book later on that may be offensive to some people. What you're really getting to is censorship," Harris said.

Ritz, who is being sued for defamation by another strip club owner, said Harris' appearance at the committee meeting was a last minute effort to stop the ordinance that didn't work.

Monday afternoon, Shelby County Commissioners passed the ordinance 11-0.

The new rules go into effect January 1, 2008.

to email Syan Rhodes.