BATH, Maine — The City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday night placing a moratorium on establishing adult entertainment clubs in the city.
The ban is in place for 180 days, and could be extended, councilors indicated.
No application has been formally submitted to open an adult entertainment club in the city, officials said, but Jim Tower of Bangor has expressed an interest in starting a strip club at Riverside Pub on Washington Street.
City Solicitor Roger Therriault said there are many related issues and questions to be answered, and that state statute permits the city to call a “timeout.”
“We are entitled as a community to regulate these uses,” Therriault said prior to the 8-2 council vote. “We cannot eliminate them.”
Tower was not in the audience Wednesday night, nor has he submitted an application, according to Scott Davis, the city’s code enforcement officer.
Davis said he took an inquiry from Tower last week, and City Clerk Mary White said prior to the meeting that Tower was in City Hall late Tuesday afternoon.
The 6-2 vote to enact a moratorium came against the objections of Ward 6 Councilor David Sinclair and at-large Councilor Andy Winglass.
Sinclair agreed with Therriault that a municipality has the authority to regulate where such a business can operate, but cannot completely ban it.
“I’m concerned that this moratorium does just that,” Sinclair said. “I have great concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed moratorium.”
Therriault responded that a municipality can indeed “take a timeout.”
“The question is,” Therriault continued, “where the Constitution trumps state statute. I think we’re better to have tried, even if it’s in vain.”
Ward 3 Councilor Carolyn Lockwood said she has fielded concerns from residents regarding such a business in the city.
As written, the moratorium is intended “to prohibit the location, operation, licensing or permitting of any activity defined as an adult use establishment until such time as the favors listed in Section 3, Statement of Necessity, are properly addressed by the city of Bath.”
The moratorium could be extended, councilors agreed.
According to the Statement of Necessity: “The city has been made aware that current police power ordinances are inadequate to address the issue of certain types of establishments known in general as adult use establishments. … At present, it is unclear whether the city’s definition of an adult business includes anything beyond the provision of materials or devices.”