Adult theater remains open after settling lawsuit with city

Saturday, May 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ An adult movie house in downtown Tulsa can stay open after it settled a lawsuit with city officials that reversed an earlier decision to deny new licenses for the theater.

Midtown Art Theater had sued the city in Tulsa District Court, claiming city leaders were trying to illegally shut it down and that the movie house was the target of police harassment. In a settlement reached Thursday, the city acknowledges a provision it had used to deny licenses for the theater has been found unconstitutional in other courts.

A clause in the city's licensing ordinance permits the city to withhold licenses if the applicant has managed a sexually oriented business within the last year and has not managed the business ``in a peaceful and law-abiding manner.''

The city has also agreed not to enforce the ordinance until it is rewritten. Senior Assistant City Attorney Ellen Hinchee said the city already is rewriting the provision.

City leaders denied a request to renew the theater's licenses in August after police said they had made 14 arrests there in 1999 and 2000. The arrests related to sexual misconduct, including outraging public decency and indecent exposure.

Midtown argued in its lawsuit that police were harassing the business and that arrests there ``occurred as a result of police entrapment.''

The theater had appealed the city council's decision to reject their application for licenses. When the appeal was denied, Midtown sued.

During the appeal, the theater owner and an employee told city officials that sexual incidents were prohibited and rarely occurred.

Police Chief Ron Palmer said officers still will make arrests at the theater, despite the lawsuit settlement.

``My concern was that we be allowed back into that establishment to enforce state statutes surrounding sexual conduct and we still have that capability,'' he said.

The 30-year-old theater has about 64,000 customers each year. The business also includes an adult bookstore, which had received new licenses and was not at odds with the city.