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Appeals court upholds ban on nude dancing in Lincoln County tavern

Wausau — A municipal ordinance against nude dancing intended to prevent prostitution and other crimes is constitutional, an appellate court ruled.The restrictions by the Lincoln County town of Bradley concerning tavern entertainment are permissible to prevent “negative secondary effects” without violating freedom of expression, the 3rd District Court of Appeals said Tuesday.The ruling was the latest in a series of legal battles in recent years in Wisconsin between local governments that do not want the strip clubs and the clubs’ owners, who have mostly warded off attempts to ban them by arguing new laws were unconstitutional infringements on First Amendment freedoms.According to court records, Melisa Urmanski got a liquor license from the Town of Bradley in rural Tomahawk and opened Melisa’s Mistake in December 1996.About two years later, the tavern began featuring topless dancers, court records said.After the town board suspended her liquor license for 60 days for violating the town’s nude-dancing ordinance, Urmanski sued, arguing the ordinance violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.The three-judge appeals court said Tuesday the town’s ordinance was a “content-neutral regulation” that passed constitutional scrutiny.“The town’s ordinance falls within the permissible class of restrictions that are not greater than essential to further the town’s interest in preventing negative secondary effects,” the panel said.The ordinance allows exotic dancing in taverns as long as female dancers where G-strings and have their nipples covered, court records said.The ruling upheld a decision by Lincoln County Circuit Judge J. Michael Nolan, who said the town had a right to limit nudity in taverns to “protect the right of speech and assembly of persons who object to such nudity and therefore would not go upon such a premises because of it.”In June 1998, the state Supreme Court ruled nude dancing in taverns was a constitutionally protected form of free speech and could not be outlawed by a municipal ordinance enacted by Trenton, a northwestern Wisconsin town.The high court ruled 5-2 in striking down the law, saying it was broad enough to outlaw other depictions of nudity, such as works of art or television programs.Tuesday’s appeals court ruling is the second victory this spring for opponents of nude dancing in taverns on grounds that the bans were designed to ward of the social harms of the adult entertainment business.Last month, the appeals court upheld the Hudson City Council’s decision to deny a liquor license to a nude dancing club in its city.According to a telephone answering machine at Melisa’s Mistake, the club features “beautiful exotic dancers” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Urmanski had an unlisted telephone number in Tomahawk and her attorney did not immediately return a telephone message for comment.

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