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Mattawa council considers regulating adult entertainment

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 24, 2022 2:06 PM

MATTAWA — Mattawa City Council members will consider possible ordinances to regulate the operation of businesses offering adult entertainment. Council members asked for regulation options after a discussion at the regular meeting Thursday.

“If we were to have adult entertainment within the businesses, we need policies that would allow law enforcement to enforce regulations on it,” Celaya said.

Council members were initially uncertain as to whether the city had regulations already in place, but staff clarified the issue in light of a recent complaint from a resident.

Council Member Silvia Barajas said an event at a local business prompted some complaints to her. One of the complainants told Barajas she had talked to city officials and been told there was nothing the city could do. Public Works Director Juan Ledezma said he had talked to the complainant, and explained that there were no regulations for the city to enforce.

City attorney Kathryn Kenison said issues regarding adult entertainment have been the subject of extensive litigation over the years, and courts have established some guidelines.

“You can’t ban it,” Berghot said.

“No, we cannot ban it,” Kenison said. “We can legislate around it, but we have been prescribed a fairly narrow scope of what we can regulate with regard to adult businesses.”

State laws require training for adult entertainment workers and business owners, and procedures that business owners have to follow, Kenison said.

“Things like panic buttons that they have to install in private showing rooms,” Kenison said. “And that’s state-regulated.”

Locally, options are fewer though they can be used to ensure safety for performers and those who are underage Kenison said.

“At the local level, we can regulate from a zoning perspective, and business licensing perspective,” Kenison said. “We can require that business owners procure licenses that are conditioned on several requirements, including background checks. And the entertainers also can be required to procure a license, so that we make sure we’re monitoring age and those types of things.”

City officials also can regulate where adult entertainment businesses are located, Kenison said.

“There are certain incompatible uses when they’re in close proximity,” she said, citing schools, playgrounds and churches as examples.

“Once we create an ordinance, we can do more controlling,” Lopez said. “As we sit right now, we can’t do anything because we don’t have a rule or anything.”

Council Member Tony Acosta said he was skeptical about an ordinance that was specific to adult entertainment.

“We’re talking about capacities and some of that, and I’ve seen other businesses that bring in live bands and exceed occupancy. Why are we not addressing those issues as well?” Acosta said. “We’ve got to be fair, across the board.”

Council members asked for some options, and further discussion is scheduled for the Aug. 4 council meeting.

Council Member Wendy Lopez said adult entertainment brings other problems along with it, including excessive alcohol consumption, drug use and fights.

Acosta said other businesses, like a business hosting live music, come with the potential for some of the same problems as adult entertainment venues such as excessive drinking.

“I just don’t see it as being as big of a concern as the rest of you guys do,” he said.

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com and welcomes news tips from throughout the Columbia Basin.

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