City, Rear End come to initial agreement on ordinance
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The city of Marshfield has come to an agreement with adult entertainment establishment the Rear End where a city ordinance, which says that establishments with a liquor licenses cannot also allow nude dancing, may be repealed.
The move by the city is a response to a lawsuit filed last year by the Rear End, which is located on 92 acres of land Marshfield added from the town of Cameron as part of a deal approved in August 2015. Prior to being incorporated into Marshfield, the Rear End had operated in the town of Cameron since 1983. When the land deal was approved, the Rear End’s business model came into conflict with Marshfield city code.
The lawsuit from the Rear End contends that the ordinance banning nude dancing in establishments with a liquor license violates the business’ first amendment rights.
In September of last year, the city said that the Rear End needed to comply with the city ordinance within 30 days. The Rear End was then granted a temporary restraining order by Wood County Circuit Judge Nicholas Brazeau Jr., which stopped the city from taking action to enforce its ordinance, according to court documents.
The Marshfield Common Council will make the ultimate decision as to whether or not to repeal the ordinance in question on Feb. 23, Mayor Chris Meyer said. Meyer said he does “suspect the common council will rescind the ordinance.”
Meyer said that the council “has been advised that our ordinance may not stand up to a court challenge,” adding that “case law” had changed since the ordinance was originally implemented in 1999.
“The challenge is going to come down to the risk to the taxpayers and the enforceability of our ordinance,” Meyer said. He added that if the city continued the lawsuit, it had a 50-50 chance of winning or losing. Meyer said that if the city lost the lawsuit, it could have to pay the Rear End’s legal fees and potentially be responsible for any damages the business claimed.
“Our costs get astronomical if we lose,” Meyer said.
In return for rescinding the ordinance, the town of Cameron and the Marshfield Electric and Water Department will be dismissed from the lawsuit. The initial lawsuit also challenged the land deal that brought the 92 acres into Marshfield, and that will no longer be a part of the suit if the ordinance is repealed.
“Having the annexation (of the 92 acres from Cameron) accepted as valid is a big win for us because then that’s not being challenged, and so we’re getting some wins on this,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the Rear End would be able to continue to operate — as it does now — indefinitely if the council repeals the ordinance. Since the lawsuit was filed, the city has not incurred any legal cost as expenses are being covered by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.
Meyer said he did not know if the lawsuit would continue if the council repeals the ordinance.
The council will likely consider a new ordinance if the current one is repealed, Meyer said, but he was not certain how the new ordinance might impact the Rear End.
The owner of the Rear End, J.D. Koran, declined to comment for this story.