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      Bristol lawyers advise against redefining ‘adult entertainment’

      ByMonelo Gabriel

      Mar 29, 2023

      BRISTOL, RI (WPRI) — A memo recently filed by Bristol city attorneys reveals that they are advising the city council against changing the definition of “adult entertainment.”

      Last month, resident Robert Botelho filed a petition asking the council to expand the definition language to include, “the act of entertaining with or without music by dancing, or behaving in a manner consistent with imitating sexual action or seduction with or without without the physical contact of others with the intent to amuse, please, sexually stimulate, or provide sexual gratification to view legal adult pleasures on or off the premises.”

      A Bristol brewery that had recently hosted a drag show and the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought the petition once they learned he would appear at a city council meeting earlier this month.

      In a letter to Bristol City Council, the ACLU said the petition is “inappropriately directed at LGBTQ+ people.”

      ACLU chief executive Steven Brown also wrote that the proposed language “is broad enough to have the Footloose-ian effect” and would, in turn, bring strict regulations for any type of entertainment in Bristol.

      At the March 1 meeting, Botelho argued that he filed the petition long before the drag show took place and that his petition did not specifically mention drag shows.

      “The notion that this excludes any (transgender) sexual spectacle, this is not that,” he told councilors on March 1. “If I wanted such an activity to take place, I could work with the city attorney to define and allow it. ”

      Last week, Deputy City Attorney Amy Goins sent a memo to council members saying the current definition of adult entertainment is “narrowly tailored and leaves very little room for
      to guess which activity falls under this definition.”

      “In contrast, Mr. Botelho’s proposed language contains the ambiguous phrase ‘consistent with imitating sexual action or seduction,’” Goins added.

      Goins pointed out how at a March 1 city council meeting, Vice President Mary Parella stated that the definition “could possibly be extended to cheerleading team performances,” and how Brown said that “a wide range of classical and contemporary movies would suddenly be considered adult entertainment.” ‘ along with dancing naked in a bar.”

      “We agree with this statement and interpretation,” Goins wrote.

      While the decision is ultimately left to the council to change the definition or not, Goins said lawyers advised against changing the proposed definition.

      “It is our opinion that Mr. Botelho’s proposed definition of adult entertainment would likely be struck down by a review court in the event of a lawsuit,” Goins wrote. “In that case, the city would also be responsible for attorneys’ fees.”

      “Additionally, it is our opinion that the current definition of adult entertainment in the zoning ordinance is sufficient to cover traditional establishments that municipalities seek to
      strictly limit,” he added.

      The city council meets at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.

      Although the meeting will be available to view via zoom, the agenda states that there will only be in-person participation.


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