On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the Reno City Council decided in a 5-2 vote to pursue new rules that would force downtown and midtown adult businesses to relocate to properly zoned industrial areas. The decision came after more than a year of debate with community support on both sides.
The ordinance would force six of the seven improperly zoned adult business to move from their current residences to industrial areas. Fantasy Girls, Men’s Club, Wild Orchid, Spice House, Suzie’s and Libido Adult Store and Theater would be forced to remove outdoor digital signs within six months, cease from serving alcohol and relocate within five years.
Those in favor of the ordinance hope it will help the revitalization of downtown, and they claim strip clubs have a negative effect on their surroundings through crime, prostitution, drug use and declining property value. The city attorney’s office pointed to national studies showing increased crime and prostitution surrounding strip clubs in cities around the country; however, the data did not include the neighborhoods and businesses in question.
Strip club owners, employees, lawyers and patrons argue the city is trying to dictate morality, while the adult businesses are meant for harmless adult entertainment.
Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilwoman Neoma Jardon were responsible for the initial effort to move adult business out of downtown, but they were eventually the only two “no” votes on the ordinance. Jardon decided there was not sufficient data regarding safety concerns to force the businesses to relocate.
While the moral arguments are persuasive, it’s not the job of the City Council to make decisions based on morality. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that supporters of the ordinance have based their argument on national statistics irrelevant to this specific case.
Supporters have also evoked speculations of criminal activity taking place in the strip clubs gathered by a private investigator. The catch here is that the city refuses to release that P.I.’s findings, and the city’s Chief of Police, Jason Soto, says his department isn’t investigating any of the P.I.’s findings.
If the City Council wants to remove adult businesses from downtown and midtown, they should tell it like it is. This move is about a continued revitalization effort, increasing property value and improving the image of downtown and midtown Reno, it’s not about crime. If crime was a real factor, the logical move would be to eliminate adult business completely, not just move them to a less populated part of town.
Until the City Council can show that adult businesses’ mere presence in the area poses a substantial safety concern, the revitalization of downtown and midtown Reno is not a sufficient reason to force businesses out.