Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 25, 2011

Federal District Court Upholds City’s Authority to Ban Internet-Based Adult Business in Residential District

In ongoing litigation reported earlier on this blog here and here, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida held that the Miami Code Enforcement Board had zoning authority to ban a business that used hidden cameras to film sexual encounters that took place in an apartment in a residential neighborhood.  Flava Works, Inc. paid $1,200 per month to employees who lived at an undisclosed residence in a multifamily high-density residential zone, referred to as the 27th Street residence.  The employees engaged in sexual relations in the home, with Flava Works broadcasting the images online at CocoDorm.com, and also selling them as DVD’s and in magazines. 

After proceedings before the Miami Code Enforcement Board, the company was found guilty of violating zoning ordinances that 1) prohibit adult entertainment establishments, and 2) prohibit most business within residential zones.  Flava Works appealed to the U.S. District Court, which held that the company, which had administrative offices at another location, was not operating an adult entertainment establishment business at the 27th Street residence.  The city appealed to the 11th Circuit, which held that Flava Works did operate a business within a residential zone, and remanded the case for further litigation on constitutional claims brought by Flava Works. 

Several of the constitutional arguments revolved around the freedom of speech and expression, and were moot when the violation relating to adult entertainment establishments was dismissed.  On remand, Flava works argued that its cyber-business did not impose any burden or nuisance on the residential zone, because it did not generate traffic or other negative impacts associated with traditional businesses.  The court held that the city has a right to protect the character and safety of its neighborhoods by banning businesses, whether they be Internet-based or not, in residential zones.  The court noted that businesses can locate in commercial zones.

Flava Works, Inc. v. City of Miami, 2011 WL 3269925 (S.D.Fla. 7/29/2011)


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