Pasties and Poles: The Strip Bar Debate Returns to Regina

SKRealEstateLaw Pasties Blog FI
Strip bars in Regina have become a hot topic again, with city council looking to approve an application for one to start back up at the former ‘Whiskeys’ location.  The location would be operating presumably under the relaxed regulations put into place by the Sask Party last year, the details of which are located here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/saskatchewan-offers-new-liquor-regulations-for-strip-clubs-movie-theatres/article5482761/

 

Regina, and southern Saskatchewan, is known for more conservative values as a community.  Not surprisingly, a challenge to the application has been mounting in the city, and getting some media attention: http://cjme.com/story/regina-group-explains-worries-behind-opposition-strip-club/520529
The argument by those opposed to the strip bar is not about the specific location of the strip bar.  It is about the negative effects that are created by these establishments generally.  In effect, most local proponents are arguing for an outright prohibition. 
The challenge for city council (here and in other municipalities) is that while they may find the shows of questionable value and have potentially deleterious effects, they cannot run a foul the legal environment that they find themselves and outside the jurisdiction that they have to make decisions. While I haven’t researched this issue in depth, the City administration would be well aware of what they can and cannot do in managing this issue. 
The Government of Canada has prepared a well written and easy to read article on the various mechanisms by which municipalities can manage or restrict certain types of ‘prostitution-related’ industries.  The article comments on how zoning, licensing and bylaws can and can’t be used by municipality to manage these industries. The article discusses strip bars as part of the discussion.  The link to that specific section of that research article is described below: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2011-119-e.htm#a22
My home town of Lloydminister went through this same issue just a few years ago.  Before I moved away from the city, there was strip bar in the back of what was known the Wayside Inn.  The property is presently owned by Best Western, I believe.  The sale of that property eliminated the strip bar, and after the sale, a local bylaw was put into place prohibiting strip clubs of any type in 2002.
If there ever was a strong case for zoning based adult entertainment bylaws, Lloydminster would have been it.  The strip bar was located just a few short blocks from the two major high schools in the area.  I was a high school student for a period when the club still operated.  With the drinking age in Alberta being 18 years old, I recall discussions of grade 12 high school students who would head over on their lunch break to catch a performance. 
The issue returned to the forefront with a local bar, ‘the Kooler’, that was pushing the limits of the bylaw.  The owner of the Kooler provided a legal opinion of a prominent Edmonton lawyer on the validity of the bylaw, and after some debate, the bylaw was eliminated in the municipality.  By the time a proper zoning based bylaw was in place (which the Kooler would have offended), the Kooler was already operating, and their nude entertainment privileges were grandfathered in.  The full story is located here: http://albertaventure.com/2013/01/lifestyle-how-one-business-owner-brought-strippers-back-to-lloydminster/
So while some may oppose the presence of these businesses, the reality is that municipalities will have a very difficult time restricting them outright.  Opponents of the business can demand stringent adherence to bylaws and licenses but should recognize that the councillors who approve the development of those businesses may have limited options.  If the councillors were to make a decision that was not correct at law, then they would subject the municipality to a pricy bit of litigation, and could lose the issue at the end of the day.
For those in favour of the club, the goal is to show how they have taken all steps to manage the application requirements on behalf of the municipality, and potentially to attempt to minimize the fears and concerns of the opposition.  For those opposing the club, the role should be to understand the municipalities’ ability to manage this issue within the confines of the law, and to demand strict adherence. 
No matter what the outcome, the results of the city council meeting tonight should be interesting.
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