Thursday, March 27, 2008

"S.C. legislation would ban stripper lap dances, curb club hours"

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)-- Exotic dancers would have to stay six feet from strip club customers and those businesses would have to close at midnight under legislation approved by House panel Thursday.

The measure would effectively ban lap dances, and strippers and club customers who violated the proposal could face up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Club owners staying open past midnight could face three years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

"There's documented evidence of illicit drug trafficking and those types of problems in these establishments," Tennessee-based attorney Scott Bergthold told a House Judiciary subcommittee on behalf of the Palmetto Family Council, a conservative groups pushing the legislation with the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

While courts have ruled that nude dancing is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, they have also found physical contact that leads to prostitution and back room sexual activity is not protected, Bergthold said.

"There's no constitutional right to a lap dance," Bergthold said.

A strip club owner said banning lap dances "would probably kill the business."

"That kind of alleviates the personalness with customers, " said Jeff Foster, who owns two topless clubs and an all nude club along the coast. "It's all fantasy. They want to feel like they're the only one in the building."

Foster owns Thee Southern Belle and Diamonds North in Charleston and Club Paradise on Hilton Head Island.

"If we're made to close at 12, I've lost probably 70 percent of my revenues," Foster said.

The House Judiciary Committee will next take up the proposal.

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