The Alaska Supreme Court ruling stops Anchorage from demanding adult cabarets — dance bars with nude dancers, which don’t serve alcoholic beverages — to follow a 1977 ordinance which forbids “adult-oriented” locales from operating between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. This included locales like massage parlors, pornographic or adult bookstores, and escort services.
The ordinance was originally challenged in 2016 by Club SinRock, an adult cabaret locale in South Anchorage. The city threatened to revoke the club’s license after it was discovered that they were open as late as 4 a.m.
Club SinRock has been open past the 2 a.m. mark since the day it was established. The club’s voicemail states that the club is open from “7:30 p.m. until the fun stops.”
Tim Lyons, one of the owners of Club SinRock, stated that not allowing adult cabarets to work at those hours was cutting out most of the revenue for such establishments as those are their busiest hours. He compared it to now allowing ice cream companies to sell their products during the summer.
ASC Cites Lack of Evidence
The ASC has in the past upheld sexual expression as protected category under the Alaska Constitution — which offers somewhat broader speech protections compared to the U.S. Constitution. A 1982 ASC decision requires the “most compelling reasons” for any prohibition of free expression and speech.
The original ordinance was implemented to curb prostitution, traffic, and noise pollution in residential neighborhoods, where, over time, many adult businesses were established.
However, the ASC ruled that the city didn’t provide enough evidence that such adult establishments contributed to such issues to require them to be closed at certain hours.
Club SinRock argued that the city’s assembly did not originally mean for the limitations to apply to adult cabarets, stating that until 2003, the law explicitly left adult cabarets out. However, when the Assembly decided to include them in the new definition, the consequences weren’t fully understood, the club claims.
The ASC found that line of argumentation “unpersuasive,” according to their ruling.
This decision doesn’t forbid the city from implementing such measures in the future, but the city needs to provide more evidence of the claimed negative impact to justify forced closure of private businesses.
Windt-Pearson, a municipal attorney, stated that she was unsure if the municipal department would consider revisiting the measure, but she noted that the Department of Law would study the various ramifications such decisions would have on other adult-oriented businesses.