What to do with Greensboro’s sexually oriented businesses

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Greensboro City Council had planned to discuss ordinances related to sexually oriented businesses Tuesday, but a lengthy closed session pushed the discussion back indefinitely.

The original discussion had to do with why it is so easy to open and re-open sexually oriented businesses in the city.

The quick answer, according to Greensboro Police Attorney Jim Clark, is that owning a sexually oriented businesses amounts to constitutionally protected free speech as determined by the US Supreme Court.

"They've made it clear that you can't outright ban a sexually oriented business," Clark said.

Another issue is Greensboro zoning ordinance, which allows businesses to have nonconforming legal status, better known as being "grandfathered in."

A sexually oriented business can close, and then another one can open in the same place within months under new ownership. The only way the land gets rezoned is if the building is empty for a year or a business of a different kind opens up and establishes another legal use aside from a sexually oriented business, according to Greensboro zoning administrator Mike Kirkman.

"You can't reconfigure it. You can't move it somewhere else. But we won't close it down," Kirkman said. "We use that for a lot of building uses, not just sexually oriented businesses."

If the city changed the ordinance for sexually oriented businesses, it would have an effect on every business in town.

That's why it's common to see a strip club close down and reopen months later under new management.

The Greensboro City Council will discuss those obstacles at its next work session on September 12.

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