Adult store granted temporary restraining order against Town of Clarksville

An adult store seeking to set up shop in Clarksville was granted its motion Tuesday for a temporary restraining against the town, which it contends is in the process of amending zoning ordinances to permanently prevent the store’s operation before it can even begin.

Store operator Clarksville Ministries is currently trying to operate “an adult-oriented business that offers, to the consenting adult public, various retail items including sexually themed, but non-obscene, books, magazines, videos, and other products, all for off-site consumption, as well as on-site viewing of adult-themed but non-obscene motion pictures” in Clarksville, Indiana.

Although CM applied for a license in mid-August to open the establishment, it never received permission to begin business from the town, nor from the town’s building department or building commissioner.

CM eventually requested immediate relief from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which was granted following a Sept. 3 oral argument in the case of Clarksville Ministries, LLC v. Town of Clarksville, Indiana et. al., 4:21-CV-00135.

The adult store argued that Clarksville’s response to its license application disregarded the town’s Zoning Ordinance Subsection 60-80(A), which states that “Upon the filing of a completed application for an Adult Business license or an Adult Business employee license, the Enforcement Officer shall issue a temporary license to the applicant, which temporary license shall expire upon the final decision of the Enforcement Officer to deny or grant the license.”

CM also argued that its requests for an immediate issuance of a temporary adult business license and a temporary adult business employee license was timely because Clarksville is currently in the process of amending pertinent ordinances that would “essentially exclude CM’s location from operating as an adult business.”

However, the town argued that CM never submitted a complete application. Specifically, that CM failed to provide dimensions of two areas on a floor plan comprising approximately 40 individual “peep show” rooms that are enclosed with doors, as well as a diagram that failed to specify the location of all overhead lighting fixtures in those areas.

Clarksville also argued the requested employee license application was incomplete because it missed a copy of the employee’s driver’s license and his photo.

Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in a Tuesday order granted CM’s motion, finding that upon CM and its employee completing their applications, the town would be obliged to issue the temporary ABL and ABEL.

The district court thus ordered the town to issue CM a temporary ABL immediately upon submission of an updated diagram showing the internal dimensions of the rooms at issue and all overhead lighting fixtures.

Additionally, it ordered that Clarksville grant a temporary ABEL for the CM employee immediately upon submission of a copy of his driver’s license and photograph.

“This TRO shall remain in effect for fourteen days after the date of issuance, or until any earlier additional order of the Court, or until a later date if Defendants consent to a longer extension,” Pratt wrote in the Sept. 7 order. “Considering the evolving nature of the applicable zoning and licensing schemes, the Court constrains its decision to CM’s request for the Court to order the Town to issue temporary licenses. Any argument pertaining to the applicability of the ordinances as they relate to non-temporary licensing (including so-called “grandfathering” of ordinances) may be addressed, if necessary, at a later time.”

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