In an unpublished decision issued in late January, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Columbia, South Carolina regulation limiting the locations of adult businesses was a valid, content neutral regulation, applying what is commonly known as the “secondary effects” doctrine. That doctrine allows local governments to specially regulate adult businesses in a content neutral manner on the grounds that such regulations counter the secondary effects—such as crime, prostitution, and neighborhood blight—of such businesses.
In December 2011, an adult business—“Taboo”—opened the only adult business establishment in Columbia, a book and novelty store. That same month, Columbia enacted restrictions on adult businesses, including a 700-foot dispersal requirement from “sensitive” uses such as religious institutions, schools, parks, and residential uses, as well as a 1,000-foot dispersal requirement from other adult uses. The regulations allowed a two-year amortization period in which an adult business in one of the restricted areas could operate before being shut down. Taboo was located in one of the restricted areas, and continued to operate for the amortization period. At the end of the amortization period, Taboo sued the city under the First Amendment.