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A dollars-and-cents argument might have been more effective than citing the First Amendment. Part of Bartle's triumph was selling his regulations as a way to save people from themselves at no cost to the state's tax rolls. Dougherty says that suggestion was stupid at best, an outright lie at worst.
"When you have an establishment that has a liquor license and, according to the bill, can no longer sell liquor, then you can see that they lose sales and we lose taxes," he says. The bill's supporters insist that enforcement of Bartle's regulations wouldn't affect the state budget because it would cost no more than $100,000 in the first year. "How can you tell me that it's going to be zero impact? Who's going to see a stripper who doesn't strip, drink a 7UP and pay $10 for it? You can't tell me that's going to have zero impact."
Club owners estimate that the bill would cost Missouri millions in lost tax revenues per year, at a time when Missouri's projected budget shortfall for the next fiscal year is $730 million. In Kansas City, 12 licensed businesses, 47 licensed adult-entertainment managers and 875 adult entertainers pay into the system. In 2009, that added up to $275,000 in state withholding taxes, $70,000 in Kansas City earnings taxes, $2 million in sales taxes, $50,250 in licensing fees and $125,000 in liquor sales taxes.
Critics argue that club owners have an interest in putting out good numbers. But for now, the only revenue estimates are from the industry — Dougherty says the bill's supporters refused to allow a fiscal review. "Even on a tax-free day for school supplies, the state takes the figures and plugs them in using available data and comes to a reasonable idea of what the loss is," he says. "There's no reason we can't do that here."
By the last day of the session, when Dougherty says he was still asking for a fiscal review, Republican leaders weren't bothering to hide their contempt, rolling their eyes and grinning as he repeated his requests. If the industry does go to court, part of its argument will be that denying the review violated legislative law.
"Normally you have to halt the bill and give me a hearing," Dougherty says. "There was plenty of time to do it, even if it was just going to be a sham hearing. They should've at least had the courtesy to publicly screw me the right way.
"They cried corruption when they said Jetton was the one who killed it. No one cries corruption when they use the same measures to push the thing through. This was Matt's last hurrah, so he was going to pull out every stop to pass this bill. He didn't care how he did it. He didn't care if it was ethical. He was going to do it."
Legislation like Bartle's has been introduced in Kansas, Tennessee, Colorado, Minnesota, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Georgia and Florida. It has failed in all of those statehouses except Ohio's, where a variation finally passed in 2007 without restrictions on nudity or alcohol sales but with a mandated midnight closing time.
The man responsible for the template is Scott Bergthold, a lawyer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Bergthold didn't return The Pitch's calls, but his practice, according to his website, is the "nation's only law firm focused exclusively on drafting and defense of municipal adult business regulations." He has made a lot of money closing small businesses, and his history suggests how much Missouri might have to pour into a courtroom fight. City officials in Johns Creek, Georgia, paid Bergthold $238,000 ($250 an hour) to litigate its attempt to shut down the city's sole adult business, a video and novelty store called the Love Shack. Including fees paid to another firm, the effort ate up more than a third of Johns Creek's annual legal budget.