Lisa Olson For the Tribune
Scottsdale strip clubs step up petition drive By Ryan Gabrielson, Tribune January 10, 2006
William Butler said he does not go to strip clubs. He finds them depressing, filled by men purchasing companionship through dollar bills. That said, Butler brought his red Mercedes to an abrupt stop Monday in front of Buzz Fun Bar in Scottsdale to sign a petition that might protect the clubs from new regulations.
"I dont think religious groups . . . should be controlling public morality," he said.
Scottsdales topless bars Skin Cabaret and Babes Cabaret have banded together to force a public vote on revisions to the Sexually Oriented Business ordinance, contending the tougher regulations will close them.
The regulations ban nude dancing and require that patrons be kept four feet from strippers during performances. In short, strippers main revenue source lap dances would become illegal, and the space restriction would eliminate about half the bars seating.
The clubs must collect 3,384 voter signatures by Wednesday or the regulations take effect March 13.
Last week, the strip clubs supporters discovered they had just 2,200 signatures, said Dave Rajput, chairman of Citizens Against Bad Government, a political action committee formed to lead the referendum drive.
So they ratcheted up their effort, placing a long table lined with petitions and voter registration paperwork at the entrance of Buzz, near the bustling intersection of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard.
The committee hired men to stand on the street in bunny suits with signs that guided people to the petitions. The tactic has worked, said Warren Colazzl, a Skin Cabaret manager who has manned the table for days.
However, it is unknown just how well. Rajput released a statement Monday saying he would not disclose their signature total until the deadline.
Colazzl, a 25-year veteran of the strip club industry, predicts that not only will the regulations make the ballot, but a recall of the entire City Council could follow.
"People are angry," Colazzl said.
The committee has spent $12,474 on professional signature gatherers, political consulting and radio spots, according to campaign finance records.
And the bars still have some money to burn.
Skin Cabaret owner Todd Borowsky has contributed $5,000 to the committee and Babes owners, which include X-rated film mogul Jenna Jameson, have given $10,000.
Jameson, a Paradise Valley resident, has alleged that the tougher strip club rules were approved unanimously last month by the City Council to prevent her from operating Babes. Scottsdale officials have denied the claim and city records show work on the regulations began in June, two months before Jamesons ownership in the club became public.
Men and women of all ages signed the petitions Monday at Buzz. However, roughly half were turned away because they were not Scottsdale residents.
But there were ways around that.
A pair of Gilbert electricians who prefer Babes and Skin Cabaret to Phoenixs topless bars drove a friend a Scottsdale resident to sign in their stead.
As with many who signed the petition, they declined to give their names to the Tribune.
Contact Ryan Gabrielson by email, or phone (480)-970-2341