Spokane Valley officials are hoping to strip away any ambiguities to the existing laws governing adult entertainment in the city.
A first-reading of the revised ordinance is set for next Tuesday’s council meeting, March 23 at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.
At the council’s March 9 gathering, Cary Driskell, deputy city attorney, told council members that the current code – which was largely inherited by Spokane County at the time of incorporation in 2003 – needs readjustment due to some instances of “ambiguity” as far as permitted conduct in existing and potential new businesses within the city. Revisions to the code would clarify the law, and also help determine what licenses the businesses would need in order for them to operate legally.
“This is something the 9th (U.S.) Circuit Court takes up pretty frequently,” Driskell said. “(The laws) need to be tweaked, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Once the council agrees to make the changes, the new laws would apply to all existing and future adult-themed facilities in Spokane Valley, whether they offer entertainment (such as Déjà Vu) or retail sales (Castle Superstore, World Wide Video) or both (Déjà Vu again).
The idea is that by clearly identifying what the activities allowed under the umbrella of “adult entertainment” will be confined only to those places that are appropriately licensed – which require a fee to be paid to the city – but it also allows the city to provide legislative oversight. Annual licenses range in price from $150 for dancers and establishment managers to $1,500 for businesses that provide “arcade devices” or live entertainment.
If the business offers services outside the scope of its license, then the city has regulations in place to stop the illegal activity, Driskell said.
The new rules would also clarify the appeal process adult-business owners could follow if they are found to be in violation of the law. An appeal fee of $1,050 would be necessary for the county hearing examiner to determine the case. That decision could then be appealed to Superior Court, if necessary.
The council first had to review the county’s adult-entertainment codes shortly after Spokane Valley became a city in 2003. At that time, the council unanimously voted to allow Sprague Avenue adult businesses to remain where they are rather than follow a county law that would have forced the shops to move into strictly zoned areas by the following year. By doing that, council members feared they would be creating a virtual “red light” district within the city’s borders.
“We can’t drive them out of the community,” Council Member Mike Flanigan said at the time. “And if we try to put them in one area, we’re just creating, for lack of a better term, a Times Square.”
Under the law, the businesses must be at least 1,000 feet from residential areas, schools, churches, libraries and anywhere that groups of children gather. The city can also restrict the hours the businesses are open.