JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.—Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem has ruled in favor of a sweeping law that would impose unprecedented restrictions on adult businesses in the state. In denying a temporary restraining order request Friday afternoon by a consortium of adult businesses, Beetem cleared the way for the law to go into effect Saturday.
Among other restrictions, the law prohibits full nudity and the serving of alcohol, forces semi-nude dancers to remain on a stage and at least six feet from patrons—rendering lap dances impossible—prohibits closed-door booths for the viewing of movies, requires that patrons remain within the clear view of employees, and mandates that adult businesses close by midnight.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Beetem said the coalition had failed to show their lawsuit is likely to ultimately succeed or that they will suffer irreparable harm by allowing the law to take effect. The operative word there would seem to be “irreparable.” Thursday, during a hearing before Beetem, lawyers for the businesses insisted that the harm could very well be irreparable, and would certainly seem that way for the employees who will now certainly lose their jobs because of the severe restrictions that are about to be imposed.
But while Beetem acknowledged in his ruling that "the law will undoubtedly change the business practices" of strip clubs, adult video and book stores and other businesses of a sexual nature, and that "they will likely suffer some economic loss,” he added that “economic loss alone does not alter the analysis of the legal issues.”
While that may be true, the economic repercussions will be immediate, according to Gene and Nellie Gruender, who own Passions adult bookstores in Colombia, Marshall Junction and Booneville. The moment the law goes into effect, they will have to lay off two employees who currently work the night shift. The reason is simple. They normally stay open 24 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays, and will now be required to close at midnight.
Other businesses expect to be similarly impacted, or even more severely.
Rob Call, who owns Rumors Cabaret in Columbia, told the Associated Press that he may have to close on Saturdays altogether. Considering he used to remain open until 4 am, and features between six and 15 dancers a night, the new regulations make business as usual all but impossible.
"By the letter of the law, a great deal of things about the way we operate will have to change," said Call. "We can't have nude dancers anymore, we can't do lap dances anymore, we can't be open after midnight anymore—that alone is going to take a large chunk of our business away."
Despite the cutbacks and forced closures, the plaintiffs are determined to fight on.
"We're not going down without a fight," Nellie Gruender, a former board member of the Free Speech Coalition, told the Daily RFT. "We are going to aggressively fight this. We are going to file a federal appeal.”
AVN has a call into one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, and will follow this case as it develops. The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3, during which a trial date will be set.