Scottsdale toughens rules for adult businesses despite protests Jenna Jameson, others say Scottsdale proposals unfair
Lesley Wright The Arizona Republic Dec. 13, 2005 12:00 AM
The Scottsdale City Council on Monday voted unanimously to toughen the city's ordinance on sexually oriented businesses despite the pleas from dozens of speakers.
The council agreed to drop a proposed ban on alcohol but approved many changes to ordinances that nightclub owners said were unacceptable and could put them out of business.
Adult-film star Jenna Jameson drew a lively crowd of more than 200 people to City Hall, many who were upset by the late decision.
"We'll have a big surprise for them. We're going to get them," First Amendment attorney Dick Hertzberg said. He represents Jameson, who recently bought Babe's Cabaret.
During the meeting, the owners of Scottsdale's two strip clubs had called the proposed rules oppressive. One of the new rules would require a 4-foot barrier between dancers and customers.
Hertzberg had told the council their decision could effectively give the clubs a 'Put us out of business' card."
"Why don't you give (Jameson) a chance?" he said. "Let her run her business for a few months and see how it goes. What's wrong with fairness?"
Also appearing at the podium was Scott Bergthold, the attorney whom Jameson dubbed "a hired gun for the Christian right." Bergthold helped Scottsdale draft its new law.
Bergthold told the council that the current law gives them the right to regulate the strip clubs because of "secondary effects" such as prostitution and the spread of diseases.
The vast majority of the dozens of speakers urged the council to uphold the rights of the strip clubs. Even the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce defended the city's entrepreneurs from onerous restrictions.
John Miller, owner of Papago Brewing Company, said council members were blurring the separation of church and state and chided them for subjecting tax dollars to the risk of lengthy legal challenges.
"I spent 20 years fighting to uphold our Constitution," said Miller, who was in the Coast Guard. "I'm not going to stop when the fight is in our own back yard."
Scottsdale already has one of the most restrictive ordinances in the state, Hertzberg said.
Scottsdale leaders have been edgy about their formerly low-profile adult nightclubs since August. Jameson bought Babe's Cabaret at 2011 N. Scottsdale Road and announced that she would renovate it into a top-flight adult nightclub called Club Jenna.
At the same time, city attorneys hauled out the sexually oriented businesses ordinance to prepare it for revisions made necessary by recent legal rulings.
The City Council hired Bergthold, an attorney aligned with the Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund, who has earned his notoriety for beating back adult businesses around the nation.
"From that point, the process took on a life of its own and began to run amok," said John Weston, attorney for Skin Cabaret at 1137 N. Scottsdale Road.
Weston, who has been defending adult businesses for 25 years, said the proposals could be the subject of litigation for years.
Bergthold drafted a list of options for the council that included a ban on alcohol. Although the council did not approve the alcohol ban, it did approve a new definition of "seminude," which limits how much skin dancers can show.
The proposal called for no grandfathering provisions, instead specifying that when licenses came up for renewal, they would be outlawed.
Jameson has been waiting months for the city to comment on her application to transfer the Babe's liquor license and send the issue to the state licensing board. The city has indefinitely delayed that decision while checking the background investigations of Jameson's club partners, who include Steven Hirsch, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Vivid Entertainment. Adult-film producer Frank Koretsky is also a partner.
Todd Borowsky, who owns Skin Cabaret, said he feels blindsided by the issue ever since Jameson opened the club.
The club owner said he was angry that Scottsdale, which works closely with businesses when re-drafting regulations, shut him and Weston out of the process.