Theatair X 2021

The Clarksville building commissioner has issued an annual license through Dec. 31 for Clarksville Ministries LLC to operate adult business Theatair X on U.S. 31 in Clarksville.

CLARKSVILLE — The Clarksville building commissioner has issued an annual adult business license to the new owner of Theatair X, a day ahead of an administrative appeal scheduled before the Clarksville Town Council Thursday.

The annual license, which was issued Wednesday and expires Dec. 31, comes less than a month after Clarksville Ministries, LLC, filed a federal lawsuit against the town citing that staff had not issued a temporary license, and two weeks after the building commissioner attempted to deny the annual license minutes before the council voted on zoning change amendments that affect the business’ ability to open.

It also comes after Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana approved a temporary restraining order preventing the town from enforcing licensing requirements in the changing codes on the business.

In a letter accompanying the license Tuesday, building commissioner Rick Barr said in part that its approval was “Out of an abundance of caution, in respect of the court’s order and to avoid any unnecessary litigation. “

Clarksville Ministries filed the complaint with the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana Aug. 27, stating that the town had still not approved its temporary license although the business believed it to be complete. Earlier that month, the new owner had entered a purchase agreement with former owner Midwest Entertainment Ventures Inc., who closed the doors mid-month after a county judge ruled the license revocation brought by the town in 2019 was legitimate.

Following the filing of the federal lawsuit, Clarksville attorneys said the application had been missing some pieces, in part an updated diagram of the full interior of the building, including the peep show booths the new owner has said it does not intend to operate.

At a special meeting Sept. 2, the day before oral arguments in the federal case, the Clarksville Town Council approved an action to repeal adult business licensing out of the town zoning code and to implement updated language into a new chapter in the town municipal code.

Five days later at a regularly scheduled council meeting, the council also voted to amend the zoning code language in a way that adds more than 30 parcels for an adult business to operate, but widens the distance that must be between certain other types of development. Under the new amendment, an adult business must be at last 750 feet from a Planned Urban Development and a portion of the Theatair X building falls too close to one such development nearby.

Clarksville Ministries had sought to get at least its temporary license ahead of this change, and Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled a few hours before that council meeting that if the business had completed their application materials, the town was to grant the temporary license.

The temporary license was granted, but nullified minutes later when the building commissioner denied the annual license based on the code changes made earlier in the week. The parties believed there was no license on file when the council adopted the new zoning changes including the larger buffer that night.

Judge Pratt later ruled that Barr was not authorized to issue such a denial, which would come either from the town council after an administrative appeal hearing or after a certain amount of time if no appeal was filed.

The business did file an appeal, but the hearing scheduled for Thursday was canceled after the issuance of the license.

Greg Fifer, one of two attorneys representing the town in the case, said Barr’s issuance this week was pursuant to both the adult licensing provisions repealed by the council several weeks ago, and the judge’s temporary restraining order.

With the current orders in place, the town council denying the appeal could also have led to further court action, including issuance of a provisional license like the one the former owners operated under for two years as litigation was ongoing in that case.

How the repealed provisions apply to Clarksville Ministries’ application has not been fully resolved in the federal case, Fifer said.

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