GREENSBURG — St. Helena Police Jury members decided at a special meeting Wednesday that they need more time to study provisions in two revised ordinances that would control what activities are allowed in strip clubs.
The ordinances were drafted by Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee lawyer the Police Jury hired to rewrite existing ordinances on nude performances in bars.
The jury decided April 26 not to discuss the propositions because, members complained, they needed more time to go over the contents of the revised ordinances. At that time, the jury set the special meeting for Wednesday.
Police Jury President Major Coleman decided during Wednesday’s meeting to appoint two committees to conduct further study of the proposed measures and asked the committees to report back to the jury at its May 14 meeting. Coleman said he hopes the jury can take up the two measures at that time.
The first of the two proposed ordinances spells out in specific detail what forms of behavior would be prohibited in establishments selling alcoholic drinks.
One provision would prohibit any employee of an alcoholic beverage establishment from knowingly exposing most parts of the human body that are generally on public display in a strip club under present rules. The ordinance also prohibits any touching between bar employees and patrons.
The other ordinance provides for the licensing and regulation of sexually oriented businesses and employees of such establishments.
Juror Warren McCray Jr. spoke for a number of jurors when he said that if the ordinances were adopted as written, then the two strip clubs authorized to operate in the parish could sue the Police Jury as they previously have done.
The clubs that have operated at one time or another are The Mansion and the Oak Ridge Club.
Coleman said the proposed ordinances should contain some language grandfathering in the existing clubs to enable them to continue doing business in the parish.
He added that if those establishments were to change hands, then new owners would have to abide by the new rules.
Adoption of those rules would effectively end the strip club trade as it exists in St. Helena Parish since the new laws would prohibit nude dancing and any physical contact between bar employees, including the dancers, and the public.
Coleman added that he is not ready to challenge the two existing clubs because of possible litigation. He said he does not want to see the parish get involved in protracted lawsuits with the existing businesses as has occurred in the past.
“We are money crunching now and the last thing I want to do is spend the taxpayers’ money fighting the existing clubs in the courts once again,” Coleman said. “We just can’t afford the lawyers’ fees anymore.”