Zoning Laws to Regulate Adult Entertainment

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Communities may use zoning laws to restrict certain adult pastimes, casually referred to as red light activities. By only permitting these sex-related businesses to operate in a specific part of the city, a local zoning ordinance can effectively create a red light district, providing the law does not infringe on the establishment’s right to operate.

Zoning Ordinance Restricts Adult Entertainment

The zoning law can prohibit or restrict, in some form, adult entertainment establishments in certain areas. Topless bars, peep shows, and sex-oriented book and video stores, may be banned in residential neighborhoods or within a certain distance of educational institutions or churches. This type of zoning can effectively create a red light district by restricting adult entertainment to a certain geographical area. The zoning ordinance that creates a red light district is permissible if not excessive or arbitrary, and does not unfairly restrict access to the adult businesses in a way that makes it prohibitively difficult for the establishment to operate.

Community Awareness of Adult Establishment’s Right to Operate

The local zoning board and council must be aware of the rights of the sex-related business to operate, when taking steps to isolate the business from the residential or educational district and to safeguard these neighborhoods. Without a sufficient area to operate, the adult establishment can effectively argue its rights to free expression are violated under the First Amendment. Contact a local attorney familiar with zoning, if you have any questions how the zoning ordinance can limit adult entertainment by establishing red light districts.

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