Orlando isn't the only city in Florida to enact a moratorium on businesses such as the one currently restricting new tattoo parlors from opening. Jacksonville's City Council passed a ban on adult-entertainment shops and clubs in June.
The difference is that Jacksonville's moratorium was halted by a federal judge, who said Jacksonville officials were wielding too much power and had violated the First Amendment by passing the moratorium.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger said Jacksonville's plan was too broad and too long -- 120 days.
Orlando's moratorium ordinance, which the city council approved last month following a campaign pledge made by Mayor Glenda Hood, lasts even longer: 180 days. It also involves a First Amendment issue, suggests Winter Park attorney Lawrence Walters, who handled the Jacksonville injunction on behalf of EMRO Corp.
Walters argues that Orlando's moratorium on tattoo and body-piercing shops affects a form of expression similar to other protected forms of expression, such as nude dancing or the content in newspapers. The similarities between the Jacksonville and Orlando examples means that Orlando's ordinance is "susceptible to challenge," Walters says.
"`The moratorium` is a fear of youth," says Walters, who is in the middle of a separate lawsuit with Daytona Beach over that city's body-piercing ordinances. "It is the people in power afraid of an image. I don't think image is a significant governmental interest."
Looking ahead, Walters says Orlando city officials will leave themselves open to litigation if the city council eventually votes to remove tattoo parlors from downtown. Existing shops have to be "grandfathered" into a new ordinance, or they can sue (and likely win) for lost revenue.
"My hope is that the city sees the wisdom of protecting the rights of existing businesses, and `is` looking to regulate new businesses," Walters says.
Wisdom, however, has been in short supply when it comes to businesses the city council finds objectionable.
In 1996, the council agreed to pay an abortion clinic doctor $325,000 to settle his lawsuit against the city. Against the advice of city staff members and a mediator, the council had voted against allowing the clinic to open south of downtown.
And in February, the city settled a five-year-old lawsuit against a North Orange Blossom Trail adult bookstore, which the city had blocked from expanding. The city paid nearly half a million dollars to defend itself and ultimately settle its case against the Fairvilla Mega Store.
"The city, despite warnings to the contrary, blundered ahead and did what it wanted," says Fairvilla attorney Irby Pugh. "I don't know what it wants to do with the tattoo parlors. Certainly `the council` may be risking temporary damages."
And giving attorneys like Walters and Pugh clients for a long time to come.
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