CLARK COUNTY — A Clark County judge will decide whether an adult business must pay more than $770,000 in fines for alleged ordinance violations said to have occurred in the fall.
Attorneys for Midwest Entertainment Ventures Inc., which operates Theatair X on U.S. 31 in Clarksville, AMW Investments, which owns the property on which it sits, and the Town of Clarksville all filed proposed orders in the case Tuesday in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4.
Attorneys for Theatair X and the property owner deny responsibility for the fines. They also content they shouldn’t be found in contempt of court for what town attorneys claim was noncompliance with a preliminary injunction issued by the court Nov. 21 related to business operations.
Town attorneys say those connected with the business are liable for the fines accrued when they failed to immediately comply with provisions of an ordinance regulating adult businesses adopted in June by the Clarksville Town Council. Town attorneys also requests that AMW and MEV pay $10,000, and an additional $25,000 for noncompliance with the injunction.
Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael could issue a ruling based on the submitted orders, or request that attorneys make modifications.
The case was first brought in mid-2019 as an administrative appeal to the revocation of Theatair X’s business license, based on alleged zoning code violations — including sex acts on the premises — and a license suspension within the previous 12 months. Theatair X has been operating on a provisional license since May, pending the appeals case.
In June, the Clarksville Town Council passed an ordinance strengthening regulations on the two adult businesses in town, including Theatair X. The ordinance states that an adult business must be closed from midnight to 6 a.m., and in the case of Theatair X, which has both a large theater and private booths in which to see sexually explicit movies, there must be a clear line of sight from the manager’s station to all public areas except restrooms.
A month later in July, the council passed a fee scale for violations of the ordinance — $2,500 for each initial violation and $7,500 for subsequent violations, to accrue daily during any periods of noncompliance.
On Nov. 21, Judge Carmichael issued a preliminary injunction to compel the business operators to comply with the ordinance, and attorneys for the town say documentation of the injunction was delivered to business operators the following day.
But town attorneys say the business continued to operate in violation of the ordinance; at least from Oct. 4 through Nov. 24, when the town sent private investigators to the spot.
One investigator visited the business on Nov. 23 and 24, buying entrance to the peep show booths and theater area. Court records show that at 5:52 p.m. Nov. 24, she was given a receipt for the ticket which was stamped with the following warning: “ALL THEATER AND PEEPSHOW PURCHASES ARE CONSIDERED PRIVATE CLUB AREAS SEPERATE (sic) FROM STORE AREAS AND ARE CONSIDERED PRIVATE AREAS WHICH YOU MAY SEE NUDITY, &/or SEX ACTS (live or on video). IF YOUR (sic) OFFENDED. Do Not ENTER!,” according to court records.
The detective said she had to be buzzed into the private areas after her purchase, and did not believe the manager was able to see the areas.
“Theatre X maintained its adult arcade and adult motion picture theaters in a configuration that, the record shows, facilitates illicit sexual encounters and unsanitary conditions,” town attorneys wrote in their proposed orders.
“The preponderance of evidence in the record — indeed, all of the record evidence — supports only one conclusion: Theatre X continued to daily operate its adult arcade and adult motion picture theaters — in contravention of the direct-line-of-sight requirement in [the ordinance] — from October 4 through November 24, 2019.”
Theatair X previously confirmed that the business is now closed at midnight, and when the private investigator returned on Nov. 29, she was told that the private booths and theater area were closed.
But attorneys for the business said that the ordinance may not even be valid because it wasn’t properly published within 30 days following adoption. Although Clarksville attorneys say they sent the notice to the News and Tribune July 3, it was not published until August, due to an error made by an employee whose employment has since been terminated.
Clarksville maintains that it made a reasonable effort to get the notice published within 30 days, but Theatair X attorneys have said the town should have followed up to ensure that it had.