Wednesday, September 17, 2008

“My neighborhood bar is adding showgirls… Now What?”

Which state agency in Oregon regulates lewd and nude entertainment? Well, to tell you the truth… none. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled nude dancing and other forms of sexually explicit entertainment as a constitutionally protected form of free expression in 2005 following State v. Ciancanelli and City of Nyssa v. Dufloth/Smith.

When this ruling went into effect, the OLCC no longer had any authority to regulate nude or lewd activities in businesses that hold a liquor license.

The OLCC does not have statutory authority to deny a proposed licensee based on their entertainment format. In Oregon, this form of entertainment has the same constitutional protection as religious expression and political expression.

Any decision to grant or deny a liquor license must be based on OLCC’s statutory authority - and that authority is limited.

The OLCC does not have the authority to:
• Deny based on public sentiment – even if a large number of people oppose the business.
• Override local zoning ordinances – business zoning is determined by the elected officials in local cities and counties.
• Consider concerns about property values, traffic or parking – local zoning sets the standard for where businesses can be located.
• Deny based on speculation about events that might happen if the business is licensed – ONLY concerns related directly to documented problems in the area or problems at other businesses operated by the license applicant will be considered.
• Deny based on concerns that children may walk or ride bikes past the business.

Information regarding problems associated with the current operation of the business, or about existing problems in the area where the business is located can be considered. This can include information on recent problems at the business location involving alcohol over-service or alcohol service to minors, recent problems involving noise, unlawful activities, fights, disorderly activities or disturbances. We can also consider problems with unlawful activities or disturbances caused by patrons outside of the current licensed business - if the problems are related to the sale or service of alcohol.

The OLCC can consider—and will consider—the new business owners’ record of alcohol violations at their other OLCC licensed businesses. If the OLCC finds that the applicants have a poor record of compliance, and are not an acceptable risk for complying with liquor laws, we can deny their license or put restrictions on their operation. Each license application is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The commission looks at how recent the violations occurred as well as the frequency and seriousness of the violations.

In some cases, the OLCC can consider information regarding adverse impacts on some types of facilities located within 500 feet of the proposed business, if the proposed business will have an adverse impact on the primary function of the facility. These facilities include a licensed childcare, elementary or secondary school, a church, a hospital, a nursing care or convalescent care facility, a park or children-oriented recreational facility, or an alcohol/drug treatment facility. This only applies to new businesses, or if there is a change in ownership and operation at an existing business. In these cases, the business owner may be able to overcome objections through an operating plan that minimizes the potential impacts on the facility.

For more on the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling on State v. Ciancanelli: