ELIOT, Maine — On Saturday evening, over 100 registered voters filled chairs and bleachers in the Marshwood Middle School gym to approve three ordinances to regulate adult entertainment in town. The ordinances were approved in a unanimous vote.
The ordinances, which were voted on before the regularly scheduled annual town meeting, define and regulate sexually orientated businesses and employees, obscenity and special amusement activities, entertainment and permits. Residents also voted to repeal the recently enacted moratorium on nude entertainment in Eliot.
The moratorium, which was approved in a vote on May 14, was enacted to buy time to better understand the implication that a proposed establishment would have on the community and to draft ordinances to better regulate that type of entertainment.
The ordinances were a response to a planning board application to rehabilitate a building at 403 Route 236, a former daycare center, into a gentlemen’s club that would feature nude entertainment.
The first ordinance establishes criteria and regulations for sexually oriented business licensing, including a definition of what a sexually oriented business is, how to apply for and maintain a sexually oriented business license and a sexually oriented business employee license, including fees for both, and the process for revoking the licenses.
The first ordinance also prohibits certain activities within sexually orientated business, including the touching of any customer by an employee who is appearing or regularly appears nude, the possession, sale or consumption of alcohol on the grounds of a sexually orientated business, the appearance of a knowingly or intentionally nude person and the appearance of a semi-nude person unless they remain at least 6 feet from all patrons and on a stage at least 18 inches tall.
The second ordinance defines “obscenity” as well as defines the consequences and penalties for any business that displays or takes part in obscene material or content for profit.
The third sets regulations in applying for a special amusement permit, which would allow institutions that serve liquor to also provide adult and-or sexually oriented entertainment.
Without a special amusement permit, a liquor-serving establishment cannot provide any entertainment as described in the first ordinance.
Present at the meeting was Eliot legal counsel Scott Bergthold, who helped draft the approved ordinances. Bergthold made a presentation before the voting occurred, where he gave an overview of the over 1,800 pages of evidence gathered to draft the ordinances.
The main Supreme Court case that Bergthold referred to in his presentation, that allowed the town of Eliot to draft and approve these ordinances, was the City of Renton vs. Playtime Theatres. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities can draft ordinances regulating entertainment based on research and statistical evidence concerning the secondary effects of adult-related business from other communities, even if they hadn’t experienced those secondary effects directly in their own community.
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