Bible Study Center a Thorn in Strip Club's Flesh : Ordinance: Permit for Joshua Institute near proposed nude dance facility activates regulation forbidding adult business within 1,000 feet of religious organizations.


In the latest round over plans for a nude dance club, the spirit outweighed the flesh--legally speaking:

City officials ruled Friday that plans for the strip club on Los Angeles Avenue could be scuttled because a Christian minister won a city business permit to open a new Bible study center nearby.

The Joshua Institute Bible Center is to open next week in a strip mall storefront less than 300 feet from where local businessman Phil Young had sought to open his dance club.

That, said City Atty. John Torrance, is close enough to trigger a city ordinance forbidding adult businesses to operate within 1,000 feet of schools, churches or religious organizations.

And it is legally reason enough for the Planning Commission to reject Young's strip club plan, Torrance said. He added, "I would think that the [city] staff would have to recommend denial of Mr. Young's application because it would conflict with the ordinance."

The bible center, which did not require Planning Commission approval, could receive its permit within days, while the dance club has been waiting months for a hearing.

What's more, city officials discovered that a karate studio catering to kids opened five or six months ago barely 300 feet away from the proposed club.

The TKO Martial Arts studio acts as a second barrier to Young's club plan because the club would violate a 500-foot buffer zone required between adult entertainment and "youth-oriented establishments," said Diane Jones, Simi Valley's director of environmental services.

In a letter sent Friday to Young, Jones and her staff said that they have ruled that Young's dance club proposal is complete.

But the letter also warned that city staff will recommend that the Planning Commission deny Young's request for a permit to open the club because of its proximity to the Bible study center and the karate studio. And it asked that Young tell the city within 10 days whether he would proceed with his application.

Neither Young nor his attorney, Roger Diamond of Santa Monica, could be reached Friday for comment.

But porn opponents trumpeted the Bible study center permit on Friday as a victory in their war on smut.

"We're just pleased that within the law, without changing the law, we were able to at least temporarily stop the opening of a porn palace in Simi Valley," said Steve Frank, an Assembly candidate and head of a group called Simi Citizens R Against Pornography.

"We certainly have need for a bible study center," said Frank, whose group had waged letter-writing campaigns, candlelight vigils and petition drives in a bid to stop Young's plan. "This shows that when people work together and unify, we can get what we need."

The Rev. Norman Walker, who will operate the Bible study center, said that he had not planned the center to block Young's dance club, but is glad it worked out that way.

"I'm not trying to pretend I didn't have some realization that we could have an impact in that, but that's a second purpose," Walker said.

"And I'm not at all unhappy that it does trigger the adult entertainment ordinance," he said. "My opposition to the sexually oriented business trade has been well documented and well-known. But we were looking for something in that area anyway. This is the only location that would really fit for what we were looking for, that would be ideal for classroom space."

Walker, a Baptist minister and member of the Simi Valley school board, said that he is renting the storefront next to the former Vampyre Lounge Cafe for $300 a month. The place will function as a nondenominational Christian meeting room for Bible study groups and a classroom for leadership seminars that he will conduct.

"In the last seminar, we had 60 people," he said. "From my perspective, this is what I have wanted to do. . . . We're looking at the Christian principles that make up a cornerstone for Western civilization. We would be training leaders to learn how to employ what we would call a biblical or Christian world view."

Walker testified in favor of the city's adult-entertainment ordinance during hearings on the measure.

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