Strip club, peep show regulation part of St. John Parish ordinance proposal

Published 12:14 am Saturday, August 5, 2017

LAPLACE — St. John is upping its regulation of live adult, experience-oriented or theatrical entertainment businesses.

The operations — commonly referred to as strip clubs, peep shows or dirty movie theaters — have been the subject of a year-plus planning and zoning study seeking to install standards in line with residents’ expectations while respecting freedom of speech.

Parish officials say the goal is to make sure residential areas, as well as children- and family-oriented establishments, avoid the negative impact and property-value concerns associated with adult-themed businesses.

Planning and Zoning Director Alexandra Carter said St. John the Baptist Parish previously received inquiries from business interests looking to open an adult-use paraphernalia retail store. The answer was simple — NO: As St. John’s existing ordinance prohibits the promotion and sale of obscene devices, offensive home videos, ‘X’ rated movies and offensive books and magazines.

Following those inquiries, interim standards were quickly instituted while a comprehensive study was launched with input from community members and law enforcement.

The result is an updated ordinance proposal that will be reviewed at a public hearing in front of Parish Council members at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace.

Sheriff Mike Tregre said the proposed ordinance is needed because existing codes lack the teeth necessary for enforcement and open up St. John to those who want to circumvent the system.

He said Planning and Zoning’s effort introduces more clarity.

“The way it was written was too broad and too general, so basically (Planning and Zoning) gave it more specifics, which was needed,” Tregre said, adding the Sheriff’s Office was in direct communication throughout the crafting process.

According to Carter, the proposed ordinance addresses adult businesses over three tiers, from adult-use entertainment to stand alone bars to live entertainment.

Planning and Zoning is recommending adult use establishments observe locational and operational criteria and be subject to Council approval to ensure consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.

The proposed plan also calls for new standalone bars — those that are not part of restaurants — to be restricted to locations zoned C3, which are heavy commercial corridors and major transportation areas. Existing bars would be grandfathered into their current locations.

The third tier of the proposed plan addresses live music and entertainment. Planning and Zoning is recommending live entertainment venues or events be subject to a permitting process managed by the Sheriff’s Office in order to administer operational criteria and ensure public safety.

A temporary or renewable live entertainment permit would be required prior to an establishment or event featuring theatrical productions, athletic contests, concerts, recitals, circuses, karaoke, live musical performances, dancing, fashion shows, comedy or DJs.

Exempt activities include periodic entertainment by schools and churches, live entertainment at weddings and similar religious events, family gatherings and private, non-commercial entertainment of guests within the confines of a residential site.

Without a new permanent ordinance, Carter said St. John is limited to restricting the sale of adult retail products.

“If you opened a strip club or peep show or adult theater that wasn’t selling retail, we didn’t have anything that addressed that,” Carter said. “Recognizing that on a planning level, we didn’t want to be caught unaware should someone come in and request it.”