NJ Supreme Court Says ‘Not In My Backyard’ To Adult Club

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Written By admin at Friday, January 20th, 2012

We all know the phrase “not in my backyard.” We hear it when people don’t want a prison, a red-light district, or a nuclear power plant near their homes. Forget about backyards — the New Jersey Supreme Court has said communities can argue “not in my state” to keep adult-themed businesses from popping up nearby.

The court’s 5-1 ruling yesterday will let towns argue that a business like Sayreville, N.J.’s Club XXXV — an adult entertainment club — isn’t needed in their borders because club owners could locate in New York or Pennsylvania, according to The Star-Ledger.

The issue concerns a state law that prohibits sexually-oriented businesses from operating near homes, parks, places of worship or other residential development — but the restriction only applies if  there are other nearby places where that kind of expression is available.

The owners of Club XXXV, “a nude gentleman’s club,” said there were no similar businesses in the area, but the Borough of Sayreville argued that if the club were closed, patrons could go to clubs in Staten Island, only a few miles — and a $ 12 bridge toll — away.

In the ruling, the court said “trial courts are not precluded from considering the existence of sites that are located outside of New Jersey.”

In his dissent, Justice Barry Albin said, “Today, this court becomes the first in the nation to suggest that a state can geographically restrict constitutionally permissive expression within its borders by offering a neighboring state as an alternative forum,” AP noted.

Gregory Vella, the attorney for the club, said, “We believe that our federal and state rights require New Jersey to permit this freedom of speech within New Jersey borders and not force the expression of First Amendment rights to another state,” according to MyCentralJersey.com.

Staten Island Advance, the borough’s local newspaper, responded to the decision, saying “Staten Islanders have long been accustomed to pollution from New Jersey blowing across the borough.”

Lawyers for the club say it will remain open as the business challenges the constitutionality of the law, and will review a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Law Blog