Iowa House subcommittee advances strip club bill

DES MOINES – Iowa cities would have more power to regulate strip clubs under a measure that cleared a House subcommittee Tuesday.

The bill advanced by a three-member judiciary subcommittee would allow cities to pass ordinances prohibiting nudity in any establishment within their jurisdiction.

Iowa strip clubs are already subject to some limits set by city zoning laws and sales tax rules barring the sale of alcohol by businesses that allow public nudity.

Dave Adelman, of the Metropolitan Coalition, which represents Iowa’s largest cities, says local authorities should have the ability to decide what takes place in such establishments.

“If the Legislature does not address this issue, the city is without any authority to regulate nude dancing at this time,” Adelman said.

Rita Bettis, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said some nudity is constitutionally protected free speech, and she fears the bill could be used to wrongly ban nudity of artistic, scientific, literary or political value from theaters and museums.

The state Supreme Court ruled in a split decision last year that a City of Hamburg ordinance prohibiting nude dancing and alcohol consumption at sexually oriented businesses and requiring seminude employees to remain six feet from customers conflicted with a state law that superseded it. But the court didn’t go so far as to declare all such restrictions unconstitutional.

State Rep. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, the subcommittee chairwoman, said the Supreme Court justices weren’t in complete agreement when they made their decision so the bill is an attempt to clarify how the Legislature should interpret state law regulating obscene material.

“We just feel like we ought to give the local communities the power and authority to regulate businesses of this kind as long as they are within constitutional bounds,” Garrett said.

The bill now moves to the full House Judiciary Committee.