Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Regulating Sex Businesses (PAS 495/496)

By Eric Kelly, FAICP, Connie Cooper, FAICP

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Sex is big business, and the Internet is making it bigger. This report is a practical guide to the regulation of lawful sex businesses and businesses handling significant quantities of sexually oriented materials.

Such businesses include: adult cabarets and other establishments with sexually oriented live entertainment; adult movie theaters; adult book stores; adult video stores; sex shops; peep shows, often called video arcades; mainstream video stores with back rooms with sexually oriented material; newsstands with back rooms of sexually oriented materials; and more.

The report examines what constitutes a lawful sex business; First Amendment issues related to the regulation of sexually oriented businesses; land-use issues and adult uses; and operating issues related to sex businesses. Finally, the report suggests ways to structure an effective regulatory program, providing a checklist so that local communities can build an ordinance to suit their particular circumstances.

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Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2000
Adobe PDF
APA Planning Advisory Service

Table of Contents

Defining pornography today • Who is the audience for this report? • How do we know? • Organization and content

1. FANNY HILL to Voyeur Dorm
Pornography and censorship in Europe • Pornography and censorship in the New World • Stag films • Mainstream cinemas and early "independent" film makers • Magazines feature nudity • Pornography goes mainstream in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s • Another technological revolution for pornography • Sex goes electronic

2. Understanding the sex business
Mainstream businesses with some hard-core material • Mixed-retail outlets • Adults-only or sexually oriented retail outlets • Sexually oriented entertainment • Other businesses • Lessons learned

3. Formal studies of sex businesses
The Kansas Study • A survey of appraisers in Rochester, New York • Findings from studies in other communities • Findings • Lessons learned

4. How local governments regulate sex businesses
Zoning techniques for regulating sexually oriented uses • Licensing requirements for regulating sexually oriented uses • Separation requirements • Treating specific adult uses differently • Amortization of sexually oriented uses • Lessons learned

5. Major issues in the regulation of sex businesses
Constitutional context for the authority to regulate • Zoning techniques applied • The importance of studies • Requirements for availability of sites • Licensing ordinance • Conditional zoning • Regulation of nude dancing • Regulation of sex toys and novelties • Regulation of arcades and peep shows • Regulation of massage and other touching businesses • Signage as a regulating factor • Lessons learned

6. How to prepare a study of sexually oriented businesses
What is the value of a study? • Who should be involved and why • Study contents • Findings and recommendations

7. How to prepare zoning regulations for sexually oriented businesses
Definitions • Land-use classifications • Designation as principal use • In what zoning districts are these uses appropriate? • Should sexually oriented businesses be clustered? • Should these businesses be separated from other uses? • What is the effect of the proposed restrictions? • Can signage for sex businesses be limited?

8. How to prepare a licensing ordinance for sexually oriented businesses
Why, when, what, and who to license • Application content and review criteria • Basic operating standards • Categorizing license violations • Procedures for license suspension and regulation

9. Recommendations
General recommendations • Retail businesses • On-site entertainment businesses • Separation requirements • Appropriate districts for adult uses • Studies • Zoning and licensing • Existing nonconforming establishments • Legal context • Sex myths