Updated: Theatair X Survives Another Day (Or Does It?) As Judge Orders Clarksville To Issue Business License

Updated at 4:18 p.m.: Theatair X lives! Or so we thought. An attorney for Town of Clarksville says the town government has, by denying Clarksville Ministries an annual license, voided the temporary license it granted them. To get the annual license, the town argues that the adult business must comply with the town’s new zoning rules, which it physically can’t.

We thought Theatair X had outmaneuvered the Town of Clarksville when a judge ruled yesterday that the town government must grant the adult business a temporary license. But, the town has come at the iconic theater with another legal punch in the face that could keep Theatair X knocked out permanently.

A Southern Indiana U.S. District Court judge handed down the order Tuesday, and soon after, the Town of Clarksville granted the temporary license to Clarksville Ministries, Theatair X’s new owner. 

Later that evening, the town passed a zoning ordinance that changed the distance that an adult business must be located from certain uses, such as residences, from 500 feet to 750 feet. Theatair X is less than 750 feet away from the Clarksville Lofts development, which would make it illegal under the new zoning ordinance. But, with a temporary license in hand, it looked like the adult business would be grandfathered in. 

Today, Greg Fifer, an attorney with the Town of Clarksville, told LEO around the same time the town granted Clarksville Ministries the temporary license, it voided that license by denying the adult business an annual license. In its denial, the town cited the fact that Clarksville Ministries’ plans do not comply with the town’s rules for manager stations. 

To get the annual license, the town argues that the adult business must comply with the town’s new zoning rules, which it physically can’t.

There is a chance that a court could decide that Theatair X is grandfathered in and able to receive an annual license, according to Fifer.

Fifer has told the News and Tribune that the city’s battle with Theatair X is not over moral reasons. Instead, the town is worried about the potential harmful secondary effects that can stem from adult businesses. In fact, the new zoning rules actually open up more land in the town to adult businesses — roughly 100 acres worth in industrially-zoned parcels. 

But, Clarksville Ministries’ attorney sees the new zoning rules as a farce. 

“The town’s attempt to open up spaces elsewhere in the town of Clarksville is nothing more than a pretext to justify running the existing business out of town,” said Matt Hoffer.

Clarksville Ministries’ owner, Michael Sanchez, does not consider Theatair X to be a harm to the community. Instead, she said in a letter to Clarksville’s Plan Commission that Theatair X is “iconic” to the “local LGBTQ+ community” and a “center of LGBTQ+ acceptance for years,” employing many LGBTQ+ people in the past. 

An adult theater has operated in Theatair X’s spot on and off since 1971.

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