Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Wolfgang Pindur

Committee Member

Berhanu Mengistu

Committee Member

Maurice Berube

Committee Member

Bruce Rubin


The purpose of this case study is to analyze methods used in the city of Norfolk, Virginia to control adult oriented businesses (AOBs). Evidence is derived from several sources: interviews, analysis of government records, documents, historical photographs, and current observations.

The research examines approaches taken by the city to control AOBs in three locations: Main Street-Granby Street, the north end of Hampton Boulevard, and Little Creek Road-Shore Drive. Research questions addressed (1) how AOBs in Norfolk were controlled, (2) what or who instigated the process, (3) the Navy's role in the process, (4) role of Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, (5) role of city council, and (6) laws and ordinances that were passed or enforced to control these businesses.

Decisions and decision-makers were identified by analyzing archival records, newspaper articles, and documents. Perceptions of twenty-five interviewees supported and amplified the documentation. In the downtown area, redevelopment coupled with an aggressive program to attract businesses and shoppers led to the elimination of many AOBs. AOBs clustered at the north end of Hampton Boulevard were eliminated when the Navy purchased both property and leaseholds. A resulting southward migration of these businesses was met by Norfolk's adoption and enforcement of zoning ordinances. Neighborhood residents were active participants in this effort.

Control of AOBs in the third area continues. Civic leagues and residents are actively working to improve the area around the Little Creek-Shore Drive intersection. Efforts to control the proliferation of ABC licenses succeeded when Norfolk adopted its special exception adult-use permits ordinance.

The massage parlor phenomenon that spread throughout the city in the 1970s was controlled by the use of anti-prostitution ordinances and an ordinance banning cross-sex massages. Elected and appointed city officials were instrumental in eliminating these businesses.

This study uses municipal decision-making and public disorder theory as the theoretical basis. Norfolk has been successful in controlling AOBs. It has done so by enforcing existing laws, and by adopting and vigorously enforcing ordinances regulating adult uses.