Kennewick strip club on hold after city denies permit

An effort to bring a strip club to an industrial portion of Kennewick is on hold after the city denied a business license to City Stars Gentleman’s Club LLC.

The city rejected the application because the club’s owners failed to complete required tenant improvements.

One of the main improvements needed is a stage for the adult entertainment dancers to perform, which includes “proper separation” from customers.

Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley also said new address signage on the building was not posted, which would include potential suite numbers to separate the building at 101 S. Gum St. into two separate businesses.

Those named on the business license application, Hector and Jennifer Salgado, have 20 days to apply for an extension of the license approval.

“They have been working with us, they are just not yet in compliance,” Mosley said.

When reached by phone about his future plans for the gentleman’s club, Hector Salgado referred all questions to his attorney, who could not be reached for comment.

Besides a license for a sexually-oriented business at the building on South Gum Street, the Salgados and their business partner, Octavio Rodriguez, also have applied to the state for a liquor license to serve beer, wine and spirits at a separate business using the address of 101 S. Gum St., Suite B.

The building is the former location of Lucky Bride Casino, located south of the cable bridge.

Washington state law does not allow alcohol to be served at strip clubs.

The city of Kennewick does not yet have an application for a separate business to operate there, nor does it designate two separate suites. Mosley said a separate address would be required to serve alcohol in the building.

The state is the regulator on liquor licenses but the city can provide feedback before a license is issued. Mosley expected Kennewick would request the state to deny the liquor license based on the current information and a lack of an additional business license application.

“We’re just taking each step as we get it and evaluating appropriately,” Mosley said.

Any business seeking a permit to operate must go through a city review process, which includes approvals from the planning, building safety and fire departments. Adult entertainment businesses usually require additional review and oversight by the city’s police department.

Mosley said Kennewick denied a business license to City Stars for a few reasons, including no provision for a revised building permit for tenant improvements and a construction plan. Kennewick building code also requires a complete address on the business license application, and this was not included. Additionally, inspections and approval of tenant improvements had not been scheduled or completed.

“They’re just not quite there yet,” Mosley said.

The only businesses banned from operating within the city limits of Kennewick, Richland or Pasco are those selling marijuana. Outside of that, each city uses zoning to regulate where businesses can go.

The city of Kennewick reported receiving a lot of calls asking why the city would consider allowing a business like City Stars Gentleman’s Club.

“The short answer is the city cannot legally ban this type of business and there isn’t a mechanism to change that. Adult use/sexually oriented businesses, such as nude or topless dancing cabarets, are considered a species of expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The city is prohibited from outright banning these types of land use,” according to a city email sent to all staff on Nov. 17.

Strip clubs can operate in any part of Kennewick, as long as the property is not zoned for residential use.

To limit these businesses to the least visible parts of town, Kennewick has city codes creating buffers around where the business can set up shop. Sexually-oriented businesses cannot operate in Kennewick within 500 feet of any residential zone, school, church or other religious facility, as well as any park, public facility or open space zone. Additionally, there cannot be two adult businesses within 1,500 feet of one another. By setting up these buffers, it makes it more difficult for a business owner to find property meeting all of the requirements.

While a city can set limits on where a business can operate, it cannot outright ban a strip club from opening in Kennewick, or any other location. Sexually-oriented businesses are protected under the First Amendment under the right to freedom of expression.

The protection afforded to strip clubs under the Constitution does not extend to marijuana businesses since the recreational sale of marijuana was legalized by the state of Washington. When the law was approved by voters in 2012, it gave individual cities the ability to allow or ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction. City councils in Kennewick, Richland and Pasco all voted to keep these businesses out of city limits, preventing the recreational sale of marijuana within the Tri-Cities.

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