OXFORD — A business owner who plans to open a strip club and restaurant on Route 26 said he's bothered by the timing of a proposed ordinance that would regulate sexually-oriented establishments.
The town manager said Oxford doesn't seek to prevent clubs, only to regulate them.
Robert Ragan, who owns the Route 26 boutique Sexy Secrets, is working on an application for Club Eks, which he describes as “a more upscale Hooters.” The club would feature topless dancing and would serve food and beer. The planned 60- by 100-foot building would also include a store with adult novelty items such as lotions and lingerie.
He is eying a location across Route 26 from the Oxford Public Safety building, which he said is a sign he plans to run a lawful, orderly business. The location is far from churches and schools, he said.
The club would be owned by his wife, Naomi, Ragan said. He would be the general manager. He said his wife is also active in running Sexy Secrets across from the Lil' Mart gas station and convenience store.
At the most recent meeting of the Oxford Planning Board, Ragan brought his proposal to the town. Town Manager Michael Chammings said the plans were incomplete, and on Aug. 18 told selectmen the town needs to have an ordinance regulating such businesses.
On Sept. 1, the town will hold a special town meeting on an ordinance that would establish licensing requirements for sexually-oriented businesses.
Ragan said the timing is suspect. “Why me, and why now?” he said.
Chammings said he has been researching similar ordinances since long before Ragan brought his proposal to the Planning Board. The one he chose is used by towns nationwide, he said, and was written by a national expert who specializes in regulation of sexually-oriented businesses.
The ordinance stood above others as one that is legally sound and respects freedom of speech, Chammings said. “We're not trying to suppress First Amendment rights,” he said.
The 19-page ordinance defines what constitutes a sexually-oriented business, and requires a license for the business and one for each employee, including proof that all employees are at least 18. The business license is $100 with a $50 annual renewal and the employee fee is $50 with a $25 annual renewal.
The goal of the ordinance, Chammings said, is to prevent what the ordinance calls “negative secondary effects” which include “prostitution, potential spread of disease, lewdness, public indecency, obscenity ... and drug trafficking.”
Ragan said he's opposed to the characterization, calling it “scare tactics.” He said he has been in contact with the Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment industry trade group that says "secondary effects" are a myth.
Ragan criticized the use of an ordinance written for towns nationwide rather than forming one tailored to the town of Oxford's needs.
Sexy Secrets, which opened in March 2010, is a store Ragan said was designed to make women feel comfortable shopping there. Similarly, he said Club Eks would be a place where men and women could go. Aside from dancers, the club would host football viewing parties, live music, billiards and dart games.
“I'm afraid the town is putting a magnifying glass on one aspect,” Ragan said Tuesday.
He said the casino, which is being built farther south on Route 26 is the main reason for his intention to start Club Eks. Gambling is an adult-oriented business, he said, and some gamblers will naturally look for strip clubs as well. He said it's important to have a well-run club like his.
He said he even plans to run shuttle buses to and from the casino in its later phases to discourage drunken driving.
Ragan, who is from Los Angeles, said he has 25 years' experience in the adult entertainment industry. He has since moved to Maine and has a wife and two children. He said that as a father, he understands the concerns people have about adult businesses.
The special town meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, at the town office. The meeting will be held on the third floor rather than the usual meeting room, Chammings said, because he expects a large crowd.
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