Appeals Court overturns limits on some sex businesses' hours

Associated Press
Nov. 29, 2002

A state court gave mixed reviews this week to a 1998 Arizona law that limits the hours that sex businesses can operate.

A Court of Appeals three-judge panel in Tucson ruled that the law's restrictions violate the Arizona Constitution's free-speech protections when applied to bookstores and video shops but are permissible for theaters featuring nude dancing.

The law requires adult theaters, adult bookstores, adult video stores and similar businesses to close from 1 to 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and until noon on Sunday.

Supporters of the law said it was intended to crack down on adult businesses that leave neighboring residents and businesses complaining of increased noise, traffic and crime.

Businesses said the law would hurt them economically and questioned its effectiveness. The ruling issued Wednesday came on a challenge filed by an adult business in Tucson.

The Empress Adult Video and Bookstore had argued that the law violated the Arizona Constitution's free-speech protections, but Judge Nanette Warner of Pima County Superior Court ruled that the law was constitutional.

The Court of Appeals partly disagreed. Two of the three judges said the restrictions for adult bookstores and video stores breached free-speech protections in the Arizona Constitution that are greater than those of the U.S. Constitution.

The government has alternatives to crack down on crime problems created by bookstores and video shops, making the hour restrictions "a convenient but not the least restrictive means of curbing the negative effects of adult speech," Judge William E. Druke wrote for the panel.

However, nude dancing enjoys no greater protection under the Arizona Constitution than its federal counterpart, and the restrictions on dancing serve a legitimate purpose for the state government, the ruling said.

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