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NY High Court Tightens Restrictions on Adult Stores

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

This week, a controversial ruling was handed down by New York's highest court affecting the Big Apple's adult entertainment businesses. Adult book and video stores, as well as locations that offer live entertainment, or video booths, will now be forced to close if they are within 500 feet of a school, church, park, residential, or even commercial area. If you've ever been in NYC, you know that pretty much covers the entire city.

The recent ruling overturned a previous case which allowed adult entertainment stores to continue operating after the city attempted to institute a ban against these businesses in the 1990s. While a challenge to the ruling is anticipated, only the United States Supreme Court can overturn the ruling, and this might not be the type of case SCOTUS wants to take up.

Devil in the Details

Prior to this ruling, stores that sold adult entertainment, or adult entertainment items, could only operate if 40 percent or less of their floor-space was devoted to adult entertainment. As a result, most adult businesses in the city will be forced to close permanently as the 60/40 rule no longer applies, and as relocation may prove impossible with give the tightened restrictions. Businesses are hopeful that an emergency stay to the ruling will be issued pending the decision by SCOTUS to take the matter up.

Now, only businesses that have an adult entertainment license will be allowed to offer live dancing, or other live entertainment. In all of New York City, it is estimated that there are less than 10 such establishments, which are now looking forward to having their competition squashed with bittersweet legal regulations.

Adult Entertainment and the Law

While the court's ruling may make an impact on many New York City residents, thanks to the internet, adult entertainment and novelty items will remain just a click away. Even though the internet has changed the landscape for adult entertainment, there is certainly a moral problem with imposing laws prohibiting adult entertainment/retail brick and mortar locations, as these laws depend upon moral judgment of the adult entertainment industry.

Although lawmakers may insist on being able to legislate obscenity, what's considered obscene varies based upon a whole host of variables. This ruling really should leave a person asking whether lawmakers can restrict adult entertainment given the First Amendment's protections for artistic expression.

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