VOL. 123 | NO. 54 | Tuesday, March 18, 2008
City Council Puts Off Strip Club Ordinance Vote
By Bill Dries
The Memphis City Council has delayed indefinitely a final vote on a new city ordinance governing strip clubs.
This afternoon's 7-5 vote to table the ordinance means a county ordinance banning beer sales at the clubs enacted last year remains in effect for the city of Memphis as well as the unincorporated county.
The city proposal drafted by the Herenton administration in consultation with club owners would have permitted beer sales.
The county ordinance, approved last year, took effect with the new year. But the ordinance has a 120 day grace period before enforcement to allow for setting up a system of permits and criminal background checks for workers and owners.
Seven of the club owners have taken the county and the city to court challenging the constitutionality of the county ordinance. They are also seeking a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the ordinance pending the outcome of the court case. All sides in the case are due in court March 27 before Federal Magistrate Tu M. Pham.
Council member Edmund Ford Jr. moved to table the city ordinance until the court battle is settled one way or the other. With appeals certain by whichever side loses at the District Court level that could take years.
Some council members said it was too long to wait and railed against the idea of the County Commission passing an ordinance governing the city of Memphis.
Council member Myron Lowery accused the council of "copping out" on the issue.
But the measure garnered the seven votes needed when some council members unsure of a course to pursue were assured they could try to bring the matter up at any point in the future with no notice provided they can put together seven votes.
It was that same possibility that left a bad taste with most of the 100 or so strip club opponents in the City Council chambers. Many favored the county ordinance and wanted the Council to vote down the city proposal.
Those voting to table the matter were: Ford, Bill Boyd, Shea Flinn, Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert, Reid Hedgepeth and Barbara Swearengen Ware. Those voting no were: Lowery, Council Chairman Scott McCormick, Harold Collins, Bill Morrison and Jim Strickland. Council member Joe Brown didn't vote at all. Brown has said repeatedly that he won't vote for or against any measure because he considers the strip clubs to be "wicked."
Look for a more detailed story on the City Council decision and the court fight over the county ordinance in Thursday's edition of The Daily News.