by ANDY SEVILLA
After a year-long moratorium, San Marcos is open for sexually oriented business.
However, businesses thus licensed would be more restricted than existing nightclubs such as Nephew’s on the downtown square, where the occasional pillow fight or hot oil and shaving creme wrestling show has been known to take place.
Under the ordinance, entertainers would be required to cover their pubic and anal areas, as well as the area from the top of the areola to the bottom of the breast. Entertainers also would not be allowed within three feet of patrons.
The San Marcos City Council passed legislation last week regulating sexually oriented businesses (SOB) wishing to set roots in the city after discussing the matter numerous times since last summer. The discussions centered around the enforceability of the “three-foot rule,” as well as suitable locations for such businesses in the city.
The most recent tit-for-tat in the SOB saga was between Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmember John Thomaides at the May 4 meeting over the three-foot rule. Thomaides called the stipulation “unenforceable” and “foolish,” while Narvaiz argued that the three-foot rule would disallow lap dances.
In April, councilmembers did away with the three-foot rule after Thomaides insisted that the stipulation was unenforceable, pointing to a staff recommendation against passing laws that promote lawlessness through unenforceable measures.
San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) Chief Howard Williams said the three-foot rule can be enforced, as plainly clothed officers will make the rounds at potential adult cabarets and can easily spot a three-foot rule violation by identifying touching between entertainers and patrons within arms length.
Williams also said the ordinance banned entertainers from touching patrons, but not patrons from touching entertainers.
“We have said lap dances are great” through the removal of the three-foot rule, Narvaiz said in her appeal to get the measure back on the legislation earlier this month.
Councilmember Chris Jones said that the three-foot rule never was removed because of concern over lap dances, but because of concern with its unenforceable possibilities.
Ultimately, Narvaiz succeeded in putting the three-foot rule back into the ordinance with a 4-2 vote on May 4. Narvaiz, Jones and Councilmembers Ryan Thomason and Fred Terry, while Councilmembers Kim Porterfield and Thomaides opposed it and Bose abstained.
In a back-handed compliment to the three-foot rule, Thomaides motioned to prohibit touching between entertainers and patrons regardless of who initiates the process, a move that brought on puzzled faces and joking smirks.
“That’s how foolish the three-foot rule is,” Thomaides said.
The final ordinance passed last week by a 6-0 vote, with Bose abstaining.
“Whatever tightens (the ordinance) up is great for me,” Narvaiz said.
The new law permits SOBs to move into 16.5 percent of the city’s land area, down from the 37 percent permitted under the previous zoning categories. Approximately 834 acres are available within the city limits where SOBs can locate within heavy industrial and light industrial zones.
It is unlawful for SOBs to operate in the Central Business Area (CBA), or within 1,000 feet of the Interstate-35 centerline, or within 1,500 feet of a church, school, residential district, park, bar, residential use, another SOB, or the CBA.
Existing SOBs lawfully operating in San Marcos as of May 4, such as Talk of the Town book store located on the Interstate-35 access road, are exempt from the location requirements under nonconforming use.
The Chief of Police will be charged with issuing SOB licenses at an annual fee of $1,000.
In May 2009, the council enacted a moratorium on SOBs after officials anticipated a flood of permit applications once the city decided to extend on-premise alcohol consumption hours from midnight to 2 a.m.
After taking the matter up at several meetings and failing to produce an ordinance tasked with regulating SOBs extensively, the council continued extending the moratorium time and time again until April 30, before ultimately passing a law Tuesday night.
Residents have been relatively quiet during the year-long process, though councilmembers voiced strong opinions on the matter at every opportunity.
“I believe in the dignity of women,” said Bose, who has been the strongest opponent SOBs from the dais. “I don’t believe in degrading women and they should be treated with care and respect … For me, myself, I’m going to vote no on (allowing SOBs in San Marcos) even if the Supreme Court says it’s okay.”
The United States Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to ban SOBs from operating in a city, though the court allows municipalities to regulate such businesses in effort to minimize secondary effects, including increased crime and lowered property values.
The tumultuous process often caused councilmembers to bump heads, with the biggest clash coming after Jones warned Porterfield of not being so blatant in voicing support for an ordinance geared towards discouraging SOBs from coming into San Marcos due to future legal ramifications against the city.Email | Print