Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Regulating Sex Businesses

PAS Report 495/496

By Eric Kelly, 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.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2000
Adobe PDF

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