In a special town board meeting last Friday morning, the town of Washington Board adopted an ordinance regulating adult entertainment businesses within the town, though the town can’t deny the business.

The special meeting came on the heels of the town’s annual meeting April 19, when more than 100 citizens crammed into the Washington Town Hall asking the town board to stop a proposed “strip club” at the former Catch 22 supper club at the intersection of Highway 70 East and West Carpenter Lake Road.

Citizens at that meeting overwhelmingly backed a motion from the floor to support the town board, on advice of counsel, to take any action necessary to stop the proposed business. 

At the annual meeting, Town Chairman Jim Egan revealed the town board had a number of attorneys working on drafting an ordinance. 

A notice for the new ordinance has been published in this addition of the Vilas County News-Review and the complete ordinance is available for viewing on the town of Washington website at town-of-washington.org.

The 25-page ordinance, identified as Chapter 15, describes definitions, findings, classifications of sexually-oriented businesses, the required permit issued by the town and conditions that would suspend and/or revoke the permit, locations, regulation of exhibition of explicit films, videos, or live entertainment in a viewing room, regulations for escort services, hours of operation, and prohibiting alcohol being served. 

“We cannot deny an adult establishment, but this ordinance specifies the requirements for operation,” said Egan. 

Supervisor Carole Linn said the attorney who helped develop the ordinance practiced in the municipal law field and has dealt with sexual business frequently. 

Egan declined to identify what attorneys the town worked with and when asked if the town has received an application to transfer the liquor license to a new owner at Catch 22, Egan said,“No comment.” 

At the annual meeting, town officials indicated they have never denied transfer of a liquor license and also admitted they cannot regulate the content of signs that advertise such a business.

The town of Washington has an existing adult orientated business at Frontier Tavern, which is “grandfathered” and means the ordinance would not apply to that business. The Frontier Tavern on Columbus Road in the town of Washington operated as an adult entertainment business for decades, but legal issues resulted in the state requesting the town revoke its liquor license. The town did that and awarded the license to Pirate’s Hideaway.

As of the annual meeting April 19, officials said the new owner had not closed on the purchase of the Catch 22 property.

Egan stated that should the board actions result in a court battle, “it will be expensive.”