Appeals court upholds Hancock Co.’s adult entertainment ordinance

Published 4:44 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging Hancock County’s permit process and new adult entertainment regulations.

The 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans, without comment, upheld a 2005 decision by U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr., who ruled for the county in the lawsuit filed by strip-club developers Weldon Frommeyer and Kirk Ladner.

The 5th Circuit heard arguments in the case in New Orleans on Sept. 7.

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Monday’s ruling was issued by a panel of three 5th Circuit judges: E. Grady Jolly, William Lockhart Garwood and Carolyn Dineen King.

Hancock County’s nine zoning districts were established under a 1997 ordinance, which included more than 80 ways to legally use land. There was no mention of strip clubs, meaning the county would need to make a “special exception” before issuing a building permit.

In 2004, Frommeyer and Ladner sought building applications under the special exception provision. They sued the county contending that before the two strip club proposals the county did not have specific ordinances regulating adult entertainment.

Nearly four months after the applications were filed, supervisors adopted an ordinance regulating how the clubs can operate and another prohibiting alcohol in businesses where employees are exposing “anatomical areas” or engaging in “sexual activities.”

Despite another ordinance adopted several months later, allowing adult entertainment in specially zoned areas, Frommeyer and Ladner claimed the new how-to-operate rules made doing business in Hancock County nearly impossible for strip clubs.