Reference Number: 
CTAS-572

The primary state law that grants counties the authority to license and regulate adult- oriented establishments and entertainers is the Adult-Oriented Establishment Registration Act of 1998, T.C.A. § 7-51-1101 et seq.  This act replaces a former and somewhat similar registration act, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal district court.  Brothers Three Enterprises v. Knox County, No. CIV-3-89-0035 (E.D. Tenn., N.D., February 4, 1991).  This registration law is optional for county governments and may be adopted by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of the county legislative body.  An important change to this act occurred in 2008.  In 2008 Public Chapter 1085, T.C.A. §§ 7-51-1102, 7-51-1109, and 7-51-1110 were amended to permit county legislative bodies to choose an alternative appeals procedure for denials of adult establishment applications and revocations of permits for adult establishments.  Currently, if the adult-oriented establishment board affirms the denial of an application or the revocation of a permit, the county attorney files suit for declaratory judgment to confirm the decision was properly made.  The county legislative body can now opt into a different procedure in which the aggrieved party shall have the right to appeal the board's decision by common-law writ of certiorari.  The county legislative body may rescind its election at any time.

Another general state law governs the location and hours of operation of adult-oriented establishments codified at T.C.A. § 7-51-1401 et seq.  This law prohibits these businesses, except those offering only live stage shows, adult cabaret, or dinner show type settings, from opening before 8 a.m. or remaining open after midnight Monday through Saturday.  On Sundays and legal holidays they must remain closed.  Local governments may establish shorter hours of operation, but may not extend the hours.  The act provides that these businesses cannot be located within 1000 feet of child care facilities, public/private charter schools, public parks, residences, family recreation centers or places of worship.  The act also contains regulations regarding the structure and type of lighting in viewing booths, and specifies penalties for violations.

Although under previous law counties could adopt an optional act to regulate massage services within the county, those statutes (T.C.A. § 63-18-101 et seq.) have been repealed and superseded by general law enacting a state licensing system in T.C.A. § 63-18-201 et seq.  Under the new act, a state board performs all licensing and regulatory functions that were formerly under the authority of the county board.