The Tampa City Council took a first step Thursday toward more strictly regulating lingerie modeling shops and stores that sell lots of sex toys.
Council members voted unanimously to ask the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission to consider a change to Tampa's adult use ordinance that would create a new category for "adult modeling establishments."
If the Planning Commission recommends approval of the change, it will come back to the City Council for two public hearings.
In recent years, city officials have found lingerie modeling shops difficult to control because their owners identify the businesses as retail establishments when they get their permits.
As a retail business, the shops can go right next to residentially zoned neighborhoods.
"It's a growing and persistent problem," said Council member Scott Paine, who asked the city attorney's office to research changes that could be made to the ordinance. "I get calls all the time about it."
As proposed, the new ordinance would seek to place a greater burden of proof on lingerie shop owners to show that any garments to be modeled "completely and opaquely cover all specified anatomical areas."
In other words, if a customer could see a model's breasts, buttocks or pubic area through the lingerie, then the city's code would deem that business as an adult use, not a retail store.
And as an adult use, the location of the shop would be more tightly controlled by the city's zoning code.
Similarly, the proposed change to the ordinance would classify as an "adult novelty and/or bookstore" any business with an inventory consisting of more than 20 percent sex toys or sexual paraphernalia.
After Thursday's meeting, Paine said he thinks lingerie modeling shops create more problems than stores that carry a few adult novelty items.
"There are lots of places that have gag stuff," he said, "and I don't think that's the issue."