Cabaret owner to continue challenge of sex-shop zoning law

Friday, April 10, 1998

The owner of a New York adult cabaret and an anonymous female dancer have decided to take their challenge of a New York zoning law restricting the location of adult-oriented establishments all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Adele Buzzetti, who runs the Cozy Cabin, and Vanessa Doe contend the city law violates their First Amendment free-expression rights, as well as their equal-protection rights under the Constitution.

Ivan Alter, attorney for the two women, said on Thursday that Buzzetti wishes to appeal to the high court. “This case has significant societal relevance, particularly in the diverse community of New York City,” he said.

Buzzetti contends the 3-year-old zoning law, which still faces a broad challenge in a case currently before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, discriminates on the basis of viewpoint because it regulates the exposure of female breasts, but not of male breasts.

The law, which would confine sexually oriented businesses to certain industrial areas of the city, defines “adult establishments” as those which feature entertainment focusing on “special anatomical areas.” One of these anatomical areas is the female breast.

Last month, the 2nd Circuit ruled in Buzzetti v. City of New York that the law “is not aimed at suppressing the viewpoint of female eroticism” but is a “content-neutral time, place and manner regulation.”

The appeals court wrote that “given New York City's objective, which is not to oppress either gender's sexuality but to control effects that flow from public reaction to the conduct involved, we must recognize that the public reactions to the exhibition of the female breast and the male breast are highly different.”

Alter, who practices in the law firm of Alter & Alter, said that “the 2nd Circuit failed to recognize the viewpoint discrimination inherent in this law. The law presumes that female topless dancing will create a certain response, but that male topless dancing will not. The appeals court simply ignored that segment of society that finds a naked male torso erotic,” he said.

Buzzetti has 90 days from the 2nd Circuit's decision on March 20 in which to file her appeal before the Supreme Court.