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Meriden club owner and commissioners go to battle over bikinis

by Dennis Sharkey
Like the last episode of a hit TV show the stage is always set before the second season begins.

This past summer when Zach Snyder, owner of Oasis Saloon just outside of Meriden on K-4 Highway, and county commissioners came to an agreement to avoid a lawsuit filed by Snyder in federal court the seed was planted for the next battle that began on Monday and will continue at 1:30 p.m. this Monday between the two sides.

At issue are regulations overseeing “bikini bars.”

County Commissioners met with Chattanooga, Tenn., Attorney Scott Bergthold via conference call to discuss the new regulations.

Snyder was also on hand with his attorney Robert E. Duncan II.

Bergthold instructed county counselor Mike Hayes to distribute a PowerPoint presentation to commissioners. Duncan objected to Hayes because no other person at the meeting had access to the presentation but the meeting went on.

The regulations accomplish two main points with the first classifying bikini-clad employees the same as partially or fully nude dancers. The regulations also address the issue of patrons in an alcohol-serving establishment being in physical contact with employees of bikini bars.

Bergthold said bikini bars are just a reclassification of a traditional strip club and that the only difference is the name.

“These are really two sides of the same coin,” Bergthold said.

Bergthold said often when law enforcement does random checks or undercover operations in the establishments they find that bikini-clad employees are still behaving in the same fashion as a traditional strip club.

Furthermore Bergthold argued that bikini bars produced the same negative secondary effects as strip clubs.

“The macho mentality that goes on with some men in these establishments combined with getting inebriated through the consumption of alcohol plays a particular role in producing negative secondary effects,” Bergthold said.

Lastly Bergthold argued that the regulations withstand the muster of the First Amendment and free speech and pointed to court cases that agree with his argument.

“It doesn’t target speech because it prohibits physical contact,” Bergthold said.

First District Commissioner Lynn Luck asked the first question when the floor was opened and asked Bergthold to clarify that the regulations of bikinis only apply to employees of establishments and not patrons.

Two men who identified themselves as representatives from Perry Lake marinas were present to hear the case but did not speak. However, they did indicate they had concerns.

Duncan objected to commissioners taking action on the resolution and said that no one from the public has seen the regulations. He said he tried to obtain a copy from County Clerk Linda Buttron’s office but was told there was not a copy available.

“We were informed that it was not available,” Duncan said. “If it had been made available to the commission prior to today’s hearing it would have been a public record.

“On those grounds alone under Kansas law it would be inappropriate to take action today,” he added.

Duncan, who specializes in liquor law in Kansas and on the federal level, took his chance to argue against the regulation despite having only a few minutes to review the document that was eventually distributed by Hayes.

Duncan argued that Kansas state law regulates drinking establishments and that the county has no jurisdiction to make new regulations. He said on two occasions the state legislature had failed to approve the regulations the county was seeking.

“I would contend that any regulation of the alcohol establishments under Kansas law is contrary and probably inappropriate,” Duncan said.

Duncan argued that the regulations being considered were unfairly being targeted at Snyder. He said the property value of the Oasis Saloon has gone up and that properties surrounding have as well. He said the Oasis has had no calls for crime.

“There’s no record to indicate the one establishment to which this is actually targeted has created any such secondary effects while it’s been operating,” Duncan argued.

Bergthold told commissioners that he had no issue with waiting a week to approve the resolution and said he would argue the points with Duncan next week.

“We don’t need to get into a tit for tat with that,” Bergthold said.

However, Bergthold did comment about negative secondary effects before taking a swipe at Duncan’s accusations. He said that courts do not require public entities to prove that negative secondary effects are being caused.

“County Counselor Hayes and I can look into those issues,” Bergthold said after the explanation. “I don’t think we’ll find any merit to them.”

Duncan announced that he was able to obtain a liquor license for the club.

“That has been accomplished despite some minor delays,” Duncan said.

Snyder said he believes the delays can be attributed to local interference and said that a local KDHE official attempted to shut down the club shortly after opening Labor Day weekend.

The club has been open since then but has not been able to serve alcohol.

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Posted by on Dec 18 2011. Filed under County, County Commission, Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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