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Nudism-adult club line blurs

By C.T. BOWEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001


It's Super Bowl Sunday. Finally. Before the teams, half-time entertainers and Hollywood stars started arriving, the biggest talk surrounded enforcement of the city of Tampa's ban on nude lap dances. Six feet away, or else.

Coincidentally, the Pasco County Commission introduced its own adult entertainment ordinance five days ago. It is intended to curtail the as-yet-undefined crime and public health threats stemming from adult video stores, girlie bars, lingerie studios and related businesses operating under the guises of body-scrub and aromatherapy salons.

One of the rules under consideration: Three feet of space between dancer and customer unless a tip is being exchanged.

So, is Pasco half as tough as Tampa? Not quite. Pasco's club dancers cannot be nude, topless or even wearing T-back bottoms under the current county ordinance. Joe Redner's dancers entertain in the altogether.

In another serendipitous moment, Super Bowl weekend activities planned for Saturday at the Lake Como nudist resort in Land O'Lakes included a flag football game to be played in the nude.

So, how can you play football and have no contact between participants, some of whom, presumably (and weather permitting), wore less than the XFL cheerleaders?

It would seem to be a flagrant violation. It isn't. Pasco's proposed adult entertainment ordinance, renamed sexually oriented entertainment business regulations in the latest draft, does not apply to the nudist resorts.

Good thing, Pasco's pols are thinking.

Hypocritical, suggests the lawyer representing a quartet of Pasco's adult businesses.

Nudism is big business in Pasco County. Five resorts are open to the public. Another is a private community used solely by the property owners. Two plan to expand. And Caliente, the upscale resort valued at $45-million when complete, finally is under construction after four years of financing delays.

Collectively, nudists say, their resorts are the second-highest annual contributor, after Saddlebrook, to the county's tourist tax revenues. Nobody in Pasco government disputes this statement, but confirmation is unavailable because the state does not release tax data on individual businesses.

More than tourist taxes are generated.

"Nudists tend to be upscale," said Honey Rand, the county's tourism consultant. "When they're outside their complex, they tend to be spenders."

Surely, some nudists will be resentful they are even mentioned in the same sentence as adult entertainment regulations. Nudism, they say, is about lifestyle choices, not sexual gratification.

The county doesn't disagree.

"Courts have recognized a personal liberty interest in appearing nude within such family-oriented naturist settings as one's home, areas where nude use is traditional and in other circumstances where said nudity is customary and does not give rise to adverse secondary effects," states the proposed county ordinance.

But exempting the nudist resorts from the rules will be one of the reasons for a legal challenge planned by the adult business owners.

"Equal protection," lawyer Luke Lirot says.

Final action on the proposed ordinance by the Pasco County Commission is scheduled after its March 23 public hearing. Lirot said a federal lawsuit will be filed in April challenging previously adopted zoning controls for adult businesses and this new ordinance -- which governs activities inside the businesses, not where they can locate -- if it is adopted in its current form.

In other words, after years of being accepted as part of mainstream business in central Pasco, nudism resorts will be lumped together with "sexually oriented entertainment businesses" by the legal minds fighting the county regulations.

It's not unfamiliar territory. Four times between 1992 and 1994, the Pasco County Commission pondered stronger nudity ordinances. Hot dog vendors in T-back bathing suits started the discussion that eventually stretched to the go-go girl dance clubs on U.S. 19. Each time the commission retreated.

Then, just as now, the regulations exempted nudist resorts. It didn't matter. In 1993, for instance, a roomful of clothed nudists told commissioners they worried a legal challenge to any new county ordinance could lead to the rules becoming broadened to cover the resorts.

Commissioners didn't care to lose the lucrative nudism business. And, the pressing need for a rewrite of the ordinance died with the 1994 election defeat of its most vocal advocate, Commissioner Bonnie Zimmer of Land O'Lakes.

This time the regulations are championed by people living in Hudson who witnessed a proliferation of the exotic dance clubs and adult video stores.

Imagine the comfort level for the current commission if equally boisterous residents from Hudson and Land O'Lakes offer conflicting opinions on the need for enhanced government regulation of adult businesses.

Make that, discomfort level.

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