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Sitting on Nixon's desk is a bill that would regulate strip clubs, adult video- and bookstores, and semi-nude modeling studios. Business owners say the restrictions would jeopardize their livelihoods. Full nudity and alcohol sales would be banned; employees deemed semi-nude would have to be on a stage at least 18 inches high and at least 6 feet from customers in a room of at least 600 square feet. The businesses would have to close by midnight, and zoning restrictions would be similar to those for sex offenders, with new businesses prohibited from operating within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, churches, libraries, parks and day-care centers, as well as other sexually oriented businesses.
Nixon's smartest political tactic might be silence. If he doesn't sign the bill, the legislation will become law in July anyway.
"I could always open up a comedy club," Snow cracks in a room where jokes are scarce.
As the meeting stretches to three hours, Snow and Spinello field questions.
"All of this started over some XXX sign on the interstate. It was for an adult bookstore," Spinello says. Bartle, he says, "had some cockamamie story about driving past it with his little girl and having to explain it to her. Truth is, if the business had just taken it down to begin with, we probably wouldn't be going through any of this. But he didn't win that one, and he's never let it go. Ever. He's been obsessed with sex."
During his first term in the Missouri Senate in 2002, Bartle introduced a bill limiting signs and billboards advertising adult businesses. It became law, but in 2004 a federal appeals court struck it down as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. In 2005, Bartle pushed a bill exactly like the one that club owners are discussing today; it passed the state Senate but never made it out of House committee hearings. This May, the bill finally passed, 118-28 in the House and 27-4 in the Senate.
Before the end of today's meeting, most of the people at this bar pledge money to the cause. Snow and Spinello believe that it will be enough to carry them through the first few months of legal motions.
Megan sips from a tall glass of iced tea at the bar of the Bulldog, a Main Street restaurant owned by Snow that shares a wall with Bazooka's. She's tan and in her late 30s, with wavy, chin-length hair and the easy smile of someone who has spent much of her professional life charming people.
At 18, the Kansas City-born high school student was spending her days at St. Teresa's Academy and her nights sliding out of her Catholic-school uniform at a strip club. That place has changed its name a few times since she worked there; now it's called the Show. Dancing took her around the country. When she wasn't onstage, she was posing for Hustler and other adult magazines. Once, she had a gig as a backup dancer for Kid Rock at Kemper Arena and caught a glimpse of herself on a big screen as she swirled around the pole. "There's my ass filling up a 24-foot television," she says with a laugh.
Megan retired from the stage a few years ago. Now she grooms miniature show horses. Evenings at Bazooka's, she works as a waitress and sometimes helps the dancers put together routines for competitions or theme nights.
"I'm a theater person, so to me it's about putting on a show," she says. "There is an art to this. I love doing the costumes and figuring out the routines. You can't just go up there and take your clothes off. I promise you, it will not work."