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Efforts to control strip clubs should take different approach

Once again, efforts to rein in nude dancing in West Virginia have been dealt a setback. A federal judge ruled this week that a law passed by the Legislature this year is "constitutionally unacceptable." Back to the drawing board? Or should a different approach be taken?

The law that was struck down by U.S. District Judge Charles Haden on Tuesday would have required strip club owners to meet a residency requirement and to pay an annual $3,000 fee for an exoctic entertainment license.

Haden called the requirements an "unfair restraint on citizens wishing to engage in the constitutionally protected expression of nude dancing."

There have been several efforts by the Legislature in recent years to regulate strip clubs without violating their First Amendment rights. As we found out this week, it's not an easy task. And, as it turned out, it was a wasted effort.

The focus should now shift to the local level. About the only way to have any control over strip clubs is through strong, unambiguous zoning ordinances. Zoning would not shut down the clubs or prevent new ones from opening, but it would keep them out of areas that would create the most offense to local residents.

There are a lot of good reasons for countywide zoning, but putting strip clubs in their place is probably the best reason. Trying to get around the First Amendment is futile. Zoning would be a sound -- and constitutional -- way to get a handle on the strip club explosion.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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