A Logan Circuit Court judge’s decision clears a path to the pole for bikini-clad women to dance at the Tenn-Tucky State Line Tavern and also calls into question the constitutionality of a portion of state law that gives county judge-executives “unfettered” discretion in issuing entertainment permits.
Tenn-Tucky owner Sheila Haley sought an entertainment permit from Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick to enable Haley to pay women to pole dance in bikinis inside her business near Adairville, setting off opposition from 16 area churches. Chick denied the permit in May. Haley’s Bowling Green attorney, Alan Simpson, challenged Chick’s ruling, appealing it to Logan Circuit Court.
Logan Circuit Judge Tyler Gill found in an order filed Wednesday that Kentucky Revised Statute Chapter 231, which purports to grant discretion to county judge-executives to deny entertainment permits for unspecified reason, violates the Kentucky Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The court action further ordered Chick to issue Haley an entertainment permit.
“In the 78 years since the chapter was first enacted, there has never been a published case involving the particular constitutional challenges made by Ms. Haley,” Gill wrote.
The chapter “is invalid as it attempts to convey unfettered arbitrary power in violation of Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution and is void for vagueness in violation of the right of due process under the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution,” Gill wrote in his order.
“In this case, County Judge/ Executive Chick was required to make a decision with no rule to follow. His decision is unenforceable and flawed only because the statute he followed attempts to give him greater power than is allowed by both our Federal and State Constitutions,” Gill’s order said.
After the court ruling, Chick issued Haley’s entertainment permit Friday afternoon with some restrictions, Simpson said. One restriction on the bar, which straddles the state line, prohibits anyone inside the business from possessing or consuming alcohol on the Kentucky side of the establishment. Simpson anticipates challenging this restriction in court.
“Every lawyer would love to have a case like this where you are able to use the constitution that was written hundreds of years ago in order to protect someone’s rights to operate a business in current times,” Simpson said. “It re-emphasizes that we are a nation of laws and not a nation of men.”
Logan County Attorney Joe Ross, who had to defend Chick’s permit denial decision, did not return a phone call Friday afternoon.
Gill’s decision is a final but appealable order. “It’s an option I hope they don’t exercise because I think Judge Gill’s opinion is right on the money,” Simpson said.
Gill’s order “will be the law of this case only,” Gill wrote. “It will have no binding effect on future similar cases which will inevitably occur. A final published appellate decision would settle the law, avoid otherwise unnecessary repetitive litigation, and make any necessary corrective action by the legislature more likely.”