The News Reporter
Bolton’s board of aldermen approved a 60-day moratorium on adult businesses Monday.
More than 20 people attended a public hearing on the proposal. More than half in attendance spoke against allowing topless dance clubs and similar businesses in town.
“They don’t belong here,” said Mason Matthis. “They don’t produce revenue for the town. They don’t produce jobs for our residents. I don’t think we want our town associated with places like that.”
Aldermen called for the public hearing at an emergency board meeting Aug. 18. The town was approached that week by two women reported to be associated with the Whispers club, an adult dance club in Delco.
Whispers and another club, Magic Moments, were closed in a raid by sheriff’s deputies Aug. 3. Six women were arrested on a variety of drug and sex-related charges. The clubs were raided due to violations of the county adult business ordinance. The clubs have remained closed since the raid, pending the outcome of a civil trial. The management of Whispers has kept the club closed voluntarily since the raids.
Town Attorney Harold “Butch” Pope explained the moratorium procedure to those attending Monday’s meeting, and detailed the town’s options. He also emphasized that there is virtually no way to completely forbid such establishments.
“Whether we agree with them or not,” he said, “the Supreme Court has ruled erotic dancing to be a freedom of expression in some cases.”
Pope said the town’s best hope lies in regulation.
“These places are hard to keep out,” he said, “but you can control where they go, and what times they can be open.”
One unidentified speaker suggested allowing topless clubs only on N.C. 211 south.
“There’s a lot of swamp and mosquitoes out there,” he said.
Several people attending Monday’s meeting asked if the town could hold a referendum on adult clubs. Pope said he didn’t think that was necessary.
“You voted for the people on this board,” he said, “and they will vote on what to do about these businesses. You elected them to do this for you.”
Mayor Frank Wilson asked for a show of hands from those attending who would support a moratorium. Every resident in the room raised his or her hand.
Wilson told the crowd that the town’s planning board and aldermen were working on a draft ordinance “as we speak,” and hoped to have something ready shortly.
“The purpose of this moratorium is to give the town time to research and assemble a possible ordinance, “ he said.
On a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Mae Neil, which was seconded by Alderman Pearl Mills, the board approved the moratorium. Alderman Geraldine Jenkins did not attend Monday’s meeting.
The issue is expected to be discussed further at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the board.