The Alabama House and Senate approved bills on friday that would impose stricter regulations on exotic dancing in Houston County.
The bills were pushed through the two legislative bodies during the recent five day special session. The bills now await the signature of Gov. Bob Riley.
“They both go to the governor’s office, and he’ll sign the one that’s on top, I guess,” said Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, who sponsored the Senate bill.
The pending law prohibits “erotic dancing, bikini dancing or other entertainment where the entertainers, employees, dancers or waiters appear nude or semi-nude” in a place with an alcohol permit.
It also prohibits someone from opening a bar within 500 feet of a semi-nude club.
The bill does not affect one-time events, such as a bikini contest at a local restaurant.
The legislation would not impact existing clubs, including two in Wicksburg and one on the east side of the county, unless there is a change in ownership, license or location.
According to Houston County Sheriff’s Office statistics, topless and exotic dancing establishments can be magnets for criminal activity.
The sheriff’s office has responded to 229 calls for law enforcement support at existing topless and bikini clubs in the past year, 44 of which Sheriff Andy Hughes has described as serious.
Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver said the bill’s intent is to stop the proliferation of bikini or topless dancing establishments, particularly in downtown Dothan and near the Country Crossing development.
Culver thanked the Legislature on Friday for moving so quickly on the bill. Culver said if the Legislature had not passed the bill during the special session, the county would have had to wait until next year for another shot.