St. Helena jurors vote to exempt 2 strip clubs from new laws

The St. Helena Parish Police Jury on Tuesday voted to pass a resolution to exempt existing sexually oriented businesses from new ordinances enacted two weeks ago to regulate such businesses in the parish.

The resolution, which board attorney Clifton Speed said has no actual legal power, was approved 4-2, with Jurors Jule Charles Wascom and Doug Watson voting against it.

The Police Jury voted June 11 to adopt two changes to the parish code to control and regulate sexually oriented businesses in St. Helena.

The first change amends the chapter that regulates alcohol licenses for local businesses. The change will prohibit nudity and “certain physical contact” between patrons and employees of licensed alcohol-serving businesses.

The second change creates a new chapter to license and regulate “sexually oriented businesses and employees.”

The changes came after residents complained about the two clubs — the Oak Ridge Lounge in Pine Grove and The Mansion near Montpelier — and have lobbied to have them shut down.

Speed told jurors that their latest vote at Tuesday’s meeting amounted to nothing more than a straw vote, and that the Police Jury would have to go through the full process of issuing a public notice and introducing a revised ordinance at a future meeting before voting on any changes to the new law.

He advised jurors to speak to Scott Bergthold, an out-of-state lawyer who drafted the newly adopted changes in the law, so that he could draft new ordinances based on the resolution approved Tuesday.

The Rev. Richard Sandberg, head of the Moral Alliance of St. Helena, or MASH, which has strongly supported the ordinance changes to regulate the parish’s sexually oriented businesses, told police jurors during the meeting that treating certain businesses differently from others could potentially expose the Police Jury to a lawsuit — a point he argued at the June 11 meeting, when the ordinances were approved.

Sandberg after Tuesday’s meeting expressed dismay at the vote, saying he didn’t want the Police Jury to “bow down to the intimidation and fear tactics of a schoolyard bully.”

Sandberg was referring to Tyrone Butler and Bobby Vaughn, who own The Mansion and Oak Ridge Lounge, respectively.

The two owners have indicated they plan to challenge the new ordinances in court.

“We pray that they (Police Jury members) will have a change of heart and take a stand for our community,” Sandberg said.

Violation of either of the new ordinances will result in either a maximum 30-day jail sentence or a $500 fine, or both.