A look at the 6-foot rule a Super Bowl later

01/28/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Tourism officials in Pinellas County said today that they are expecting below normal occupancy over the upcoming Super Bowl weekend.

Sheila Cole, executive director for the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, tells today’s St. Petersburg Times that the area is not going to see the financial influx that was hoped for from the big game.

The question about how much the Super Bowl boosts the local economy has always been subject to debate. And with the recession, financial expectations have been scaled down in some quarters this year.

But strip clubs are expected to do stellar business this week. In Tampa, there are a reported 43 such clubs within the city’s limits. Joe Redner is the owner of the most famous such establishment, Mons Venus. He says he’s already seen more traffic than usual this week.

Redner says that he may increase the normal price of admission to his North Dale Mabry club beginning this weekend.

Unlike when the Super Bowl last came to Tampa eight years ago, there has been little discussion about the so-called 6 foot rule, the controversial legislation unanimously supported by the Tampa City Council and then Mayor Dick Greco back in late 1999. That’s the ordinance that could get strip club customers up to six months in jail for being within six feet of a nude dancer.

In January 2001, the NFL traveled to Tampa about the new ordinance. Former City Councilman Bob Buckhorn said the law was part of a package of quality of life initiatives aimed at tackling street level crime in the city. And Buckhorn says that the city had the adult entertainment industry on the ropes, but when Pam Iorio succeeded Dick Greco as mayor in 2003, the priorities of the city changed.

Still, Buckhorn insists the six-foot law has made a difference.

During the week of the Super Bowl in 2001, Tampa Police didn’t arrest anybody for violating that ordinance, and a Tampa Police Department spokeswoman says there is no intention of trying to enforce it now. However, the TPD and Hillsborough County Sherriff’s offices announced on Tuesday that they had arrested 13 men and 7 women on various prostitution charges.

Looking back nearly a decade later, Redner says the move led by Buckhorn wasn’t worth all of the hue and cry.

Explaining the number of people who were arrested on prostitution charges this week, Tampa Police Captain Bret Bartlett said “The Sun rises in the East, and hookers come into town during the Super Bowl.”

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