The Journal Gazette
Friday, October 15, 2021 2:30 pm

Dancer: Local law on sexually oriented businesses should be revoked

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

People driving by the Allen County Courthouse Tuesday may have wondered why about a dozen protesters were holding signs with messages such as, "Keep Fort Wayne dancers safe."

The Fort Wayne City Council passed an ordinance in 2019 setting several provisions involving sexually oriented businesses. One says employees in those businesses can’t appear semi-nude unless they are separated from patrons by 6 feet, on a stage at least 18 inches tall or in a room that is no less than 600 square feet.

Several local businesses -- including Showgirl I, Showgirl III and Brandy's Lounge -- sued the city, saying the ordinance would irreparably harm their businesses. Allen Superior Judge Jennifer DeGroote ruled against the operators, and the appeals court upheld the lower court's findings about a year ago.

The city could not implement the ordinance until it was no longer involved in legal action, so it wasn’t implemented until earlier this year.

Jessica Thompkins, who identified herself during public comment at Tuesday's City Council meeting as a dancer in Fort Wayne clubs off and on for 18 years, said the ordinance is already having a negative effect on businesses, such as strip clubs.

Thompkins said she doesn’t feel like a dancer anymore and patrons try to break rules about touching dancers more often now that they can’t see as much of the entertainers.

"People wear less clothing at pools and lakes and beaches and amusement parks and concerts all over cable TV," she said. "These restrictions are not helping anybody."

Thompkins asked City Council to consider revoking the ordinance. An online petition on against the ordinance had been signed by almost 1,700 people as of Thursday evening.

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