- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors has relaxed new regulations on stores that sell or rent adult materials in hopes of ending a federal lawsuit.

An adult-business owner sued the county after the board in July passed zoning regulations on where and under what conditions new adult businesses can operate. The board also established an adult-business license that operators must apply for through the chief of police.

Manassas Video Club, which operates three of the five adult businesses in the county, sued to block enforcement of the new rules, saying they violate free-speech rights. The business won a temporary restraining order and hired lawyer Paul Cambria, who has represented Hustler publisher Larry Flynt in his free-speech legal battles.

“We are attacking the licensing statute because we’re convinced it’s unconstitutional. We’re confident we will have it permanently stopped,” Mr. Cambria said.

A hearing will be held in March in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to determine whether the temporary restraining order will be made permanent.

“We don’t view these requirements as overly restrictive,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, a Republican. “We can’t prohibit these types of businesses, but we want to have the ability to regulate them.”

In granting the restraining order, the federal court picked apart the county’s adult-business regulations, calling some of their elements problematic.

The Board of Supervisors voted last week to relax the regulations, aiming to address the court’s concerns. The board:

• Reduced the amount of information needed for an employee’s background check at adult businesses.

• Added an administrative appeal process so if a permit is denied or revoked, the business can appeal first to the police chief, then to the county Circuit Court.

• Dropped the requirement for adult-business owners to provide their age, Social Security number, weight, height, hair and eye color on their applications.

• Ended a provision that allowed an adult-business permit to be revoked if any of its employees commit crimes during off-hours.

Under the new regulations, adult businesses must pay $400 for an initial license application and a $200 yearly renewal fee.

Mr. Connaughton said the county is recovering its costs under the new program and won’t make money from the new fees.

He said he had no idea what the county makes from sales at adult video shops and strip clubs, but said he doesn’t view the businesses as part of the county’s economic development.

The board chairman said having a business-license process will give the county better authority to deal with any problems or criminal activity that may arise from the businesses. The county previously had no regulations on adult businesses.

“The number of adult businesses seems to be at an all-time low, so to get new rules in place now when we don’t have that many of them will help us deal with new ones that potentially would try to locate here in the future,” Mr. Connaughton said.

“We’re trying to be proactive.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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