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Columbia Missourian

The Show-No-More State: Adult entertainment businesses face new restrictions

By Melanie Loth, Tom Reaves Capp
August 28, 2010 | 5:15 p.m. CDT
MU junior Gabrielle Morin works as a sign flipper for Club Vogue on the corner of north Providence Road and Business Loop 70 East. The new law restricting sexually oriented businesses bans full nudity and requires other changes such as shorter hours of operation.

COLUMBIA — Lauren June Kellermann never missed a shift for work and she has worked every weekend since the beginning of the year.

Friday, Kellermann, 23, lost her job through no fault of her own.

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Passions, an adult entertainment store off Business Loop 70 East, terminated Kellermann's position because of a new state law restricting sexually oriented businesses.

Part of the law, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, requires adult businesses in Missouri to close from midnight to 6 a.m. Kellermann worked the graveyard shift from 1 to 9 a.m. on weekends, and now Passions is obligated to close during that time.

“For us, we close at midnight," said Nellie Symm-Gruender, owner of Passions in Columbia, Passions Too and Passions Video. "We don’t have a choice.”

Symm-Gruender also laid off another employee because of the new law.

The state now forces adult entertainment stores to close between those hours, but strip clubs have a choice.  They are allowed to stay open, but the dancers have to cover up.

“The question is, ‘Are people still going to be interested in going in there to see women dancing in bikinis?’ ” Symm-Gruender said. “At that point, they can dress like Hooters girls."

Kellermann, who was at Club Vogue — a strip club off Business Loop 70 East — at midnight the night the law went into effect, said there was a countdown until the dancers had to don their bikinis.

The law also bans full nudity at all times and touching between semi-nude dancers and patrons. Dancers must have their lower breasts and buttocks covered at all times under the law’s definition of semi-nude.

The owners "can put all of their dancers in clothes that cover their breasts and cover their anal cleavage,” Symm-Gruender said.

The law restricts new sexually oriented businesses from setting up shop within 1,000 feet of any school, house of worship, day care, library, public park, residence or another sexually oriented business.

“We have a legitimate business,” Symm-Gruender said. “We are simply in the business of offering adult materials for people who want to see them.  We have a sign on our door that says, ‘If you are offended by adult themed material don’t enter.’ It’s as simple as that.”

Kellermann doesn’t see the reason for restrictions on sexually oriented businesses.

“You can buy lube at Walgreens,” she said.

Symm-Gruender said Passions does most of its business between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. 

“We’re gonna lose 30 to 40 percent of our business,” she said. 

When the bill was introduced, it stated that sexually oriented businesses were linked to property crime, prostitution, drug trafficking and sexual assault, among other crimes. 

“You’re going to find that most of the time fewer crimes occur around adult businesses because we have a 24-hour presence," Symm-Gruender said in response to the bill. "The crimes that do occur aren’t related to us.”

“Any chick in six-inch heels is not drug-addled,” she added.

On top of eliminating jobs, the law violates Missourians' basic rights, Rumors Cabaret owner Robert Call said.

“It’s an infringement on freedom," Call said. "Nude expression has been protected as a First Amendment right. Restricting the hours that you can express your rights seems very wrong.”

Like Symm-Gruender, Call expects to lose business.

“I imagine it’s going to be detrimental,” he said. “I imagine it will be devastating, but we’re gonna soldier on and see what we can do with it.”

Kellermann said that legislators are trying to impose their morals on the public.

“It’s the government trying to regulate our morality,” Kellermann said Saturday morning. “I’ve always been proud to live in Missouri, that it’s an independent state. It’s not a red state; it’s not a blue state. Why did they have to be so regulatory for morals?”